Though the world failed to end last December, one bad event actually did happen. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea – North Korea – the Far East's only nuclear power, broke an embarrassing three time losing streak, successfully lifting a missile into orbit.
New York Times writer Choe Sang-Hun reported that though North Korea insisted its Unha-3 rocket, launched Dec. 12 was part of its peaceful space program, intelligence officials disagree. South Koreans recovered and analyzed the rocket’s flight data and the debris of its oxidizer tank recovered in waters off South Korea two days after the rocket launch and concluded that North Korea clearly was testing a ballistic missile. The missile can fly more than 6,200 miles, with a warhead of about 1,100 to 1,300 pounds, putting the West Coast of the United States in range.
The DPRK continues its Apocalypse Now style-war with South Korea, and by extension with the United States and our close ally Japan. The fact that a recluse nation, inaccessible to the international community, is heavily armed with nuclear weapons and now finally has developed a delivery system capable of threatening US cities, is not a good thing at all.
The success of North Korea's missile launch reconfirms that the situation in the North Pacific, and the Pacific Rim as a whole is clearly one of the most tense political situations on earth. There is no other place in the world where all three elements of a genuine foreign policy crisis come so fully into harmony; clear, inarguable, nuclear war capacities, a reliable delivery system, and outright hostility to the United States and its close allies. Not even Iran's nuclear ambitions compare to North Korea's proven, fully mature, nuclear capabilities.
The Far East has two of America's strongest and most economically and politically stable allies in the world in South Korea and Japan. Likewise it has one of America's strongest self-avowed enemies in nuclear-armed North Korea, and one of America's biggest foreign policy challenges in the mighty, growing, developing, expansionist world power, China.
China, like North Korea, can by no stretch be put in the US allies column. We face serious opposition with China in all areas including economic, military, and political; Economically with the obvious liquidity and debt imbalance we criminally brought on ourselves. Militarily in such vital areas geopolitically as the South China Sea, and with the permanent hair-trigger nervousness related to US military commitment to Taiwan. Politically, these two world powers vie for influence in arenas such as Africa, Syria and the Middle, East and elsewhere while sidelining the U.S. and Western allies.
Because the United States descended religiously from the Middle East and culturally from Europe in its inception, Americans have tended naturally to be oriented eastward, and by default this translates into our obsession with dysfunction and instability in the Middle East. Of course, the geopolitical force of petroleum production in the region fuels the outsized devotion to this region in the fragile net of our foreign policy considerations.
A plain, unbiased gaze however, would provide clear evidence that a Westward orientation, and serious devotion to the Pacific Rim holds every bit the same urgency for our future and should properly spark equal intensity in its demand for American foreign policy attention.
The evolving, deep crisis of the Pacific Rim requires urgent, practical and structural reorientation in American, political impulses and mentality.
American Pacific states from California to Alaska and including Hawaii need increasingly to be recognized as having ever greater ballast and significance in America's political future. This region needs to grow in the assumption of gravitas and “centrality” in the American political mind, and slowly acquire the same status and unexamined presumption of political importance for Americans as does the old-century's habits of mind when we think of Washington DC and the Northeastern United States.
Secondly, we quickly need ever more Asian descent political leaders in US positions of leadership, both elected, and among political appointees. By this I mean not only American through and through people who happen to be “Asian” only when you open your eyes, but more particularly, Asian candidates and appointments whose orientation, identity, impulses, causes, and insights are tied specifically to the concerns and cultures of Asian communities and nations.
Of course aggressive pursuit of greater integration into American politics must come from within the Asian communities themselves, but additionally all Americans especially those who are politically engaged, savvy, and powerful must invest in creating a social, cultural, political environment in with such candidates are welcomed and encouraged, and where candidates for important appointments are strongly considered. We all know that political access remains an unnecessarily closed club in America even to this day.
The need for insights unique to Asian-Americans, most especially to influence reflection on the Pacific Rim and development of related US foreign policy in this area is unarguably urgent at this time.
The political party that accomplishes this orientation in its ranks, and gains strength with strong political presence and force in the Western states is the one that will lead the American future more energetically and will come to hold greater importance in future political directions of the United States. This is true not only in response to the pressing foreign policy demands created by the needed battle for balance of power and stability in the Pacific Rim region at the moment, but as much so for the obviously boggling world of opportunity both economically and culturally rooted there in the Pacific Rim. How great it would be for America and its leaders to act with a little foresight for a change, and do far better in this theater than we have in creating and persisting with our reckless entanglements elsewhere