Asia’s Conflict “Flashpoints”

Why do interstate conflicts occur? What causes them to become intractable or to escalate in intensity such that they threaten regional or international security? To what extent could, or should the U.S. play a role in helping to defuse or resolve them? This course addresses these questions through an examination of three “flashpoints” of conflict in Asia: Taiwan Strait, the East/South China Sea, and the Korea Peninsula. It explores the origins and dynamics of each of these disputes and the interplay between them insofar as US interests and involvement are concerned. We will investigate the tangled roots and evolution of these disputes through various lenses, focusing on competing historical narratives and grievances, geopolitical and resource-related rivalries, and issues related to domestic politics and national identity. In looking at dispute dynamics, we will consider the relative military and other capabilities of and the “tools” deployed by the disputants as well as the interests and involvement of extra-regional powers, the United States in particular. In addressing the issue of whether/how these conflicts can be managed or resolved, we will consider the various initiatives and instruments that have been, or could be employed.