4 Asia-Pacific Flashpoints To Watch In 2014

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Harry Kazianis of The Diplomat,

Without question, 2013 was a jam-packed year for national security, defense and foreign policy watchers in the Asia-Pacific. What will 2014 bring? Look for next year’s major flashpoints to include mostly familiar themes from the last few years – and almost all include China, one way or another. Below are my top four flashpoints to watch out for in 2014, in ascending order.

4. North Korea Once Again Sparks Tensions: Next year offers countless possibilities for Pyongyang to raise tensions in Northeast Asia – and all are disturbing. From another nuclear or missile test, some sort of aggressive act that sparks a regional crisis (like another ROKS Cheonan incident, or worse) or just an outright collapse, North Korea always has the potential to plunge Northeast Asia and the wider region into a state of chaos. Last year, the actions of Kim Jung-un left me with many sleepless nights as editor of these pages. One can only hope in 2014 that Pyongyang will stick to filling the news cycle with trips by Dennis Rodman – but don’t count on it.

3. U.S.-China Tensions Continue to Grow: The rise of China is certainly a global story with worldwide ramifications. In 2014, look for China’s rise to take a new twist, sparking greater competitive tensions with the United States that are much more out in the open than in years past. From more incidents at sea like the near collision with the USS Cowpens, trade disputes and new trade blocs (perhaps the TTP?), allegations of more spying but from both sides (calling Edward Snowden?), there is no easier prediction to make than that 2014 will not be an easy one for U.S.-China ties.  While China talks of creating a new type of great power relations and seeking win-win ties and U.S. President Barack Obama is eager to foster a peaceful relationship, tensions seem to be too great to allow for wishful thinking.

My prediction for 2014 when it comes to Washington and Beijing: Look for the tone of this relationship to get much more competitive, tense, and filled with frank statements of intent from both sides, who will be less eager to please and more confrontational.

2. Drama in the South China Sea: It seems tensions here are never ending. Look for next year to continue a familiar pattern. Considering the number of claimants to the various islands, reefs, inlets and rocks along with the natural resources that are thought to lie beneath them, 2014 should provide plenty of stressful headlines. Look for Beijing to continue to press its claims through what fellow Diplomat author James Holmes calls “Small Stick Diplomacy,” but with a stick that might get a little bit bigger. With Beijing recently deploying its new, but non-functional, aircraft carrier to the region for maneuvers after declaring a new air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, look for China to keep the pressure on in areas like Second Thomas Shoal.

1. Drama in the East China Sea: Forget Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program or America’s drawdown in Afghanistan – there is no more important international hotspot in the world today than in the East China Sea, where tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are ongoing. Given that the world’s second and third largest economies are locked into a cycle of increasing tensions that could conceivably draw in the U.S., the stakes could not be any higher. With China continuing to probe the area with naval and air assets and declaring an ADIZ over the area, while Japan seeks to enhance its armed forces with a focus on defending this disputed area, a deadly witches brew seems to be taking shape. Could naval and air assets come close enough that an incident occurs? What happens then? In 2014, we might just find out.

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bobert's picture

How will Australia do if tensions increase in Asia or war breaks out?

bobert's picture

Oh you shouldn't have....now I'm going to be whistling Waltzing Mathilda all night long.

And, I'm wondering about my Australian bank stock holdings. Perhaps it's not worth holding regardless of the high yielding dividends.

Clowns on Acid's picture

In an age of free money... high paying dividends are high for a reason...

bobert's picture


I know what you say is true.

The old conservative banking institution I hold is paying me 5% on my investment. Up till now I've not considered it high risk.

I'll be looking for an exit point though starting tomorow.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Boris is also make notice of more flash point in Asia when is drunk in Bangkok and is escort cocktail waitress to second story apartment above local bar. One flash and maybe jump from window.

yrbmegr's picture

Boris, can you write in Russian with an American accent, too?

Dr Benway's picture

Australia's entire economy is all in on its housing bubble, which underpins the banks constituting a third of the Oz sharemarket. This property bubble is at least partly supported by Chinese investors. When overseas investors stop handing over sucker money, for whatever reason, Australia is screwed.

Also, Australia's financial markets are jampacked with junk, crossholdings, deliberately inflated assets and outright fraud. Check out my blog on these subjects:


old naughty's picture

b,b,but...where (which economy) isn't ?

Dr Benway's picture

Haha, yeah of course you are right, old naughty, this kind of crap is everywhere. But it has arguably festered worse in Australia than anywhere else in the world.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Just smile and eat vegemite sandwich.

smacker's picture



[thinks] ...how does Boris know that Ozzies eat vegemite sandwiches? ;-)

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Boris is Ozzy most big fan "riding off rail to crazy train"!

Dugald's picture



Thank you for the lead....most interesting.

new game's picture

tag team to da blog

nice try...

Jack Burton's picture

I would add the three smoldering melted nuclear cores at Fukushima and the masses of spent fuel rods in broken and leaking storgae pools. Before political tensions explode, someone might break through the Press and Government Black Out of news from the nuclear site where nothing is stopping the increase of radiation spewing from the entire complex. Notice they use poor people, criminals and unemployed to do the clean up work. Why? Because they wil soon die from their exposure. You won't see the rich and famous anywhere near that place. They will be on TV touting how safe Fukushima is. Liek these clowns who try and downplay the disaster. They say it is nothing to worry about, but wouldn't be caught dead near that place.

When Snowden tells the Chinese about how much they have been tapped into, they will begin a counter attack in the realm of the NSA. Expect serious consequences of the NSA actions.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

If you are caught near "nukushima", you are probably dead or soon are to be - mutually inclusive.

USA USA's picture

China, China, China and NK. Anyone see a pattern here?

Russia and the Middle East are off the Hook. The 2014 boggie Man is.........CHINA of course.

Oh and by the way, the West Coast of US should be glowing before 2014 is over. Nice touch too.

max2205's picture

I say internet brownouts will become normal

As Kerry said....the internet sure makes it hard to govern.

williambanzai7's picture

You left Fukushima and Thailand off the list.

Bad news in Thailand is bad news for SEA.

Bad news in Fukushima is bad news for...

Year of Living Stupidly's picture

Indonesia as well -- presidential elections in 2014, nose-diving currency, and more unemployed youth than you can shake your police baton at. Once the shoe drops on exports to China, watch out.

Make_Mine_A_Double's picture

I would also add Thailand as a wild card. The political deadlock could devolve into civil unrest and they are lynchpin economy for SE Asia.

Typing Typer's picture

You're right, especially when the long reigning king finally passes away, and takes all national maturity and political stability with him, then I think the Thai people's inner teenager will make a violent mess of that country.

new game's picture

pent up agression. opressed humans everywhere getting even.

why do they let it happen in the first place?

kill opressers

resist authority

year of uprise

year of turmoil

year of killing off of the 1 percent.

KO 2014...

El Vaquero's picture

Shit like this can simmer for a long time before anything real happens.  With China, I would expect a very hard and likely successful attack on the dollar before they did anything real.  Or they could just wait until we fuck it up ourselves, then move.  Destroy the dollar and destroy our ability to import oil, and we aren't pulling enough out of the ground here locally to fight a (conventional) war, feed the people and have any sort of functioning economy. 


The world is going to hell in a handbasket.  Could somebody please pass the fucking Laphroaig?

pachanguero's picture

As I live in Thailand, Pattaya I can say this.  It's a housing bubble like I've never seen.  And Im 57 Years old.  I've been through a lot of shit and this one is a huge one.  It's imploding as I speak.  I've been only renting as I saw this years ago. The Russians are buying like mad with straw buyers.  The Thai's are fliping condos and the shit storm has just started.  I'm short the Thai Baht and long gold and USD.


Im waiting for blood in the streets to scoop up some cheap gold.  The upside is the whores are a lot cheaper and more humble women.

Oh and a lot of hot Iranian, African, Vietnam whores have hit the streets in the last month.  The shit storm is everywhere.

Ron Paul is right.  The Fed is the most evil thing on the planet.


Clowns on Acid's picture

Good stuff pachy. Please keep us updated on the upside of things. We are pretty familiar with the downside.

squexx's picture

Even far more evil than the Fed is the Satanic Tribe that controls it. The Head of the Fed has always been a demonic member of this utterly evil tribe. Yet another reason they don't deserve to exist!

bonin006's picture

RE China-US relations:

"and U.S. President Barack Obama is eager to foster a peaceful relationship"

According to anyone besides BO ?


Emergency Ward's picture

I thought Obama's Pacific Pivot was conceived to escalate tensions throughout the Pacific and thus ensure a growing revenue stream for the MIC.

"Pumbaa -- Ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
Timon -- Pumbaa. I don't wonder -- I know.
Pumbaa -- Oh. What are they?
Timon -- They're fireflies. Fireflies that uh... got stuck up in that big... bluish-black... thing.
Pumbaa -- Oh. Gee. I always thought that they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away."

-- Disney's "The Lion King"

q99x2's picture

The New Madrid fault could slip and cause 23 core meltdowns in the US.

zippy_uk's picture

Reminds me of the conversation between the Japanese Facist Nikko NuNukyo and the Chinese Moaist Yue Fuk Too...