The naval arms race in Asia continues

Back in April, Paul Kennedy, professor of history at Yale best known for his The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, had an op-ed in the IHT in which he discussed the meaning of the growing naval arms race in Northeast Asia in terms of the center of balance of the international system, with a striking imbalance between Europe and Asia in terms of naval strength.

Today saw two more examples to support Professor Kennedy’s point — and, thinking slightly less in terms of world history, to support the idea that the East Asian balance of power is becoming, despite US predominance, vigorously multipolar.

First, South Korea has reportedly become the fifth country in the world to deploy an Aegis-equipped warship (hat tip: Marmot’s Hole).

Second, the FT reports that the US is concerned about Chinese plans to develop a new ballistic missile submarine. While SSBNs are not necessarily a factor in the naval balance, being more directly related to questions of nuclear deterrence between the US and China (and Japan, on some level), the development of more sophisticated SSBNs will likely put pressure on the US and Japan to improve their anti-submarine warfare capabilities, prompting other navies in the region to respond.

The dance of the powers continues: one week the US offers to help China with its aircraft carrier program, the next it expresses fears about Chinese SSBNs. All the while the US navy presence in the region continues to provide the maritime public goods that growing Asia desperately needs.

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