Regional instability remains one of the serious concerns for Southeast Asian countries. ASEAN itself is facing unresolved conflicts and disputes that push the regional institution into stalemate position. Rohingya Refugees’ crisis, Pattani insurgency in Southern Thailand, and extremist terrorism in the Southern part of the Philippines are just a glimpse among many causes to regional instability. Disputes also occurred because of the pursuit of interest, such as the current South China Sea dispute.
Along with these numbers of issues, Southeast Asia remains prone to the growing threats, and much related to the changing regional and global political landscape.
Meanwhile, North Korea has been becoming a new plausible threat to the stability of Southeast Asian security. North Korea has already caught global attention by a series controversial event, such as the killing of Kim Jong-Nam, Jong-Il first son, by the Indonesian and Vietnamese citizens at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which strained the bilateral relationship between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur.
Moreover, a series of the missile launches and testing had caused earthquakes and starting to grow panic among surrounding states. North Korea also tried to launch its missile towards the territorial Sea of Japan.
This unfriendly act lured condemnation from the United Nations, and the latest invitation for press release had led the United States to send its naval army towards the Western Pacific due to the probability of missile launching.
From all the incidents and event, North Korea is trying to send a simple message to the world: they are getting ready for another massive turn, which absolutely not a good contribution for the stability of international politics. It could be the nuke warheads that is small enough to fit onto a missile in reference on their statement at September 2016, or another type of weapon mass destruction (WMD) that clearly could cause a new regional instability for ASEAN.
This threats are not only limited in a form of direct attack from North Korea, but also its implication if the war initiated. On the one hand, problems like refugee crisis could also occur. Southeast Asia will inevitably serves as the ‘limbo’ for Asian refugees.
On the other hand, war also could cause the damage towards the environment, since North Korea is predicted to use its weapon of mass destruction including nuclear missile, if necessary. The chemical radiation could possibly disperse across Asia through the sea and air.
Despite the stagnation in some territorial disputes and conflict, as well as ASEAN’s inability to solve the problem, Southeast Asia should not overlook this circumstance and should prepare for the other upcoming threat from North Korea. Only with the concern to break current stalemate and finally producing output through cooperation, ASEAN could fix the current regional instability in the region.
Although the war is not happening yet, ASEAN should pay much attention to the conflict nearby its territory and practically put some measurement to avoid the worst scenario.
Diaz Kurniawan is a research intern at ASEAN Studies Center, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada, and an undergraduate student at Department of International Relations, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta.