The leadership profile of North Asia has altered significantly this week with conservative victories in elections in Japan and South Korea. Both results have serious potential to affect the region’s security dynamics, a chief area of study for the Lowy Institute.
The Japanese elections returned conservative former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power in a landslide victory. Abe’s tough rhetoric on Japan’s territorial disputes with China and on the role of so-called Korean comfort women during Japan's wartime occupation of Korea could signal a phase of confrontation ahead between Japan and both China and South Korea. Meanwhile South Korea has also elected a conservative leader, its first female Prime Minister, Park Geun-hye, who is the daughter of former military ruler Park Chung-hee. In security policy, she promises a mix of ‘robust deterrence’ and fresh efforts at diplomatic engagement with North Korea. With both leaders facing economic challenges and other domestic priorities, important questions remain about whether their parallel ascension will be, on balance, good for regional stability.
The Lowy Institute has a strong record of analysis on North Asian security and wider policy issues, and in 2013 will track the impact of political change on the stability of this critical region.