[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Turmoil in Asia
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2003


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] One consequence of U.S. involvement in Iraq is increased turmoil in Asia. With so much of our military committed to the Middle East, at this point in time we don't have the resources for a major military effort elsewhere in the world. This situation is being exploited by the Chinese and will lead to additional disruptions in Asia in the months ahead.

There have been enormous positive consequences from the U.S. decision to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. Not only are Iraqis free of his reign of terror, but the Libyan leader has decided to turn himself in rather than suffer Saddam's fate. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have lost some of their funding and freedom to operate in places such as Saudi Arabia. Palestinian terrorist organizations have lost some of their previously free flowing funds to buy the explosives which fifteen year old boys and girls have eagerly strapped around their barely developed bodies. And most recently, India and Pakistan are prepared to talk rather than threatening each other.

All of these benefits from our Iraqi involvement have come at a cost in American lives as well as an impact on the federal budget. Reciting the costs isn't intended to suggest that the benefits aren't justified. Simply that we have to be aware of the cost. One other intangible consequence of our involvement in Iraq has been the turmoil that is brewing in Asia.

China has already made two bold moves in recent months. First it has taken a much tougher line on Taiwan. To be sure, Taiwanese leaders opened the issue by making noises about independence. But China responded with far more belligerent rhetoric than in many years, prompting analysts to conclude that the chances of a Chinese attack to take over Taiwan are far greater now than at any time in years.

All eyes were turned to Washington at the time of the December 9 visit by the Chinese premier. Would the American president assert agreements with Taiwan and demand that China back off? That didn't happen. Instead, in an oval office meeting with U.S. and Chinese reporters in attendance, President Bush publicly leaned on Taipei, not Beijing, in this controversy to the chagrin of many of the president's most ardent supporters. The president was undoubtedly motivated in part by concerns about U.S. military forces. This is not the time to commit American troops in defense of Taiwan.

Now the emboldened Communist leadership in China has taken steps to cancel democratic reforms in Hong Kong. Beijing has made it clear that it is the puppeteer in Hong Kong. There will be no elections which could lead to independence. Our government has been silent on the controversy.

At the same time, the North Koreans are engaged in saber rattling of their own. It's not coincidental that they have chosen this time to inflame the nuclear weapons issue. The recent six party talks, also involving Japan, China, Russia and South Korea, recently broke down when North Korea showed no willingness to compromise.

This muscle flexing in China and North Korea is being carefully watched in Tokyo. Let's not forget that memories are long in Asia. The Second World War is still fresh in peoples' minds.

As one of the characters in my recently released novel Conspiracy, explains, many responsible Japanese leaders are already alarmed by burgeoning Chinese power. Uncertain whether the U.S. will contain the threat posed to them by China, they are calling for a conversion of the so-called Japanese self defense forces to a full fledged state of the art military. Even the possibility of Japanese nuclear weapons is being discussed openly.

Five years ago, this debate in Japan would have been unthinkable. In the intervening years, the Chinese economy boomed; its military blossomed. Meantime, the Japanese economy remained mired in recession. The nineteenth century refrain of Japanese political philosophers, "weak military; weak nation," had a haunting relevance.

The threats posed by China to Japan are numerous and some not so obvious. For example, both nations are lacking in oilÂ…the lifeblood of their economies. As they vie for output from the same limited sources, it's reasonable to assume that the most powerful will grab the largest share.

But life is not only imitating art with the debate in Tokyo, but also with the question of how the American government should react to the prospects of Japan militarization. That too is an issue in Conspiracy.

As an American officer told me in an e-mail message responding to a recent column about Japan and the calls by some Japanese leaders for renewed militarization, "we're between a rock and a hard place on that one." Our present military forces are thin in Asia, and it's hard to see how they could be significantly strengthened in the short run. In this situation, perhaps the time has come for the U.S. to condone a strong Japanese army as an ally in containing China and North Korea.

To be realistic, a resurgent Japanese military will be a fact of life in this decade whether we like it or not. Let's try to harness its energy and power. Even more turmoil in Asia may work to our advantage.