|Asian nations’ military buildups are fueled by a desire to protect themselves from other Asian states, but the intracontinental tensions will soon be trumped by a collective Asian fear of a common outside enemy.|
Between 2005 and 2009, the amount spent on weapons purchases throughout Southeast Asia almost doubled, signaling that the nations in the region are equipping themselves for a major conflict.
The figures, from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, show that as historically aggressive and unstable nations like North Korea, China and Pakistan expand their arsenals, the region’s democratic countries feel pressured to follow suit.
North Korea’s act of war against South Korea on November 23 underscores just how belligerent and erratic Pyongyang’s leadership is. North Korea is an economic lunatic with a nuclear program that has taken a huge leap forward in recent months. Stanford professor Siegfried Hecker toured its Yongbyon nuclear facility this month and saw 2,000 centrifuges assembled there, along with a 25-megawatt light-water nuclear reactor under construction. “My jaw just dropped, I was stunned,” he said. “To see what looked like hundreds and hundreds of centrifuges lined up … it was just stunning. In a clean, modern facility, looking down I said, ‘… they actually did what they said there were going to do.’”
Under the reign of Kim Jong-il, North Korea has earned a reputation as one of the most unpredictable and insecure nations in the world. And the military is assuming a more dominant behind-the-scenes role all the time, a trend that will lurch forward as ailing King Jong-il passes the nation’s reins on to his son. “Having less of a power base than his father, Jong-un will be even more reliant on support from senior party and military leaders,” said Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation think tank.
The big kid on the block ratcheted up its military spending to staggering heights beginning in the 1990s. In March of 2010, China announced an increase of 7.5 percent in its annual defense budget, which follows years of around 10 percent increases and brings the total to $78.6 billion. Also, Beijing notoriously lacks transparency regarding the true magnitude of its military buildup, so the actual increases are almost certainly higher. In August, the annual report to the U.S. Congress on China’s military power described a massive Chinese military buildup designed primarily to push America out of Southeast Asia. The report revealed China’s pursuit of a variety of air, naval, submersible, space and cyber weapons designed specifically to destroy U.S. battle carrier groups, and said the growing military will “increase China’s options for using military force to gain diplomatic advantage or resolve disputes in its favor.”
A separate security report this week announced that China could now destroy five of America’s six air bases in East Asia while risking very little harm to itself. It also said China’s mushrooming naval power now poses a threat to the U.S. naval presence as far east as Guam.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, arguably the least stable nation on the planet, has fallen largely under the control of its military, and Islamabad just boosted its defense budget by 17 percent for the 2010-2011 year. Obama administration officials have privately said they would rather meet with Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani than with the country’s president because they know Kayani is the one actually holding the political reigns.
The military junta in Myanmar, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, recently bought $570 million worth of Russian fighter jets. On November 10, Myanmar was reported to be developing a nuclear program with assistance from rogue North Korea.
Response From Asia’s Democracies
As the shadows of their neighboring states’ militaries grow longer and darker before their eyes, the democracies of Asia have felt compelled to join in the arms race.
Even before the November 23 attack, South Korea announced it would boost its purchases of advanced U.S. weaponry to counter its maverick neighbor to the north.
Indonesia is an anomaly within Asia: It is a big country that has normally behaved like a small one, while most of its neighbors do the opposite, trying to project more power than they actually have. In recent years, however, Jakarta has begun to ramp up its defense spending. Indonesia recently announced it would purchase nine new squadrons of jets, and the country’s anticipated 2011 military budget is $6.3 billion. This amount is expected to rise steadily over the coming years to possibly become Southeast Asia’s largest.
Meanwhile, India boosted its military budget by more than 20 percent last year. Malaysia just invested almost $1 billion into new submarines that will monitor waters that Beijing and Kuala Lumpur both stake claim to. Thailand has doubled its military spending over the past four years, bringing last year’s amount to $4.8 billion. The colossal increases were fueled largely by fears that conflicts between Myanmar’s junta and ethnic-minority groups could spill over into Thailand.
Japan has witnessed a surge of nationalism and jingoism in its mainstream as China’s growing political assertiveness and increasing military might make it squirm. North Korea’s schizophrenic behavior has also recently prompted Tokyo to confront a topic long considered taboo: developing an atomic arsenal of its own.
Even Taiwan, whose fears of upsetting Beijing have normally stifled military upgrades, spent $6 billion in 2010 on new weapons from the U.S.
But for many of these democratic states, vesting more power in military leaders equates to a reduction in the stability that has fueled their prosperity and economic comfort. The Indonesian military is rapidly becoming a political force in the country once again, which has prompted fears that it will impede Jakarta’s judicial system. Thailand’s army head is now more powerful than the country’s prime minister. And, over the last 10 years, various military personnel in the Philippines have allegedly been connected to hundreds of murders of left-wing activists.
Militarism is on the rise throughout Asia. And, although the countries’ buildups are often designed to protect themselves from other Asian nations, the intra-Asian tensions will soon be trumped by a collective Asian fear of a common enemy.
Daniel 11:40 speaks of a showdown in this end time between “the king of the north”—a German-led European empire—and “the king of the south,” a radical Middle Eastern empire led by Iran. Daniel 11:40-41 explain that, at the time of the end, this European entity will enter into “the glorious land”—called Israel today—and overthrow many countries. But the amazing military success of this European power will not go unchecked! The pivotal prophecy continues in verse 44, saying that “tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him ….” After destroying the Middle Eastern power, the European empire will be troubled by what is happening to its east and north—that is, in Asia!