Asia Pacific 2023: Asia Pacific Today
China's economy continued with its impressive growth into the late-2010s but in 2017 international tensions in the Asia Pacific region briefly escalated when North Korea demonstrated that its nuclear weapons capabilities were far more sophisticated than previously suspected. In late 2019 the region saw the emergence of a new deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China, which quickly became the most significant global pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918.
8 Apr 2017–12 Jun 2018 North Korea missile crisis▲
In 2017 North Korea conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests demonstrating that it was able to fire ballistic missiles at least as far as northeast Japan and threatening to strike US islands in the Pacific. At the same time North Korea warned China that it would not back down on its nuclear program, while North Korean leader Kim Jong-un engaged in an escalating war of words with US President Donald Trump (who nicknamed Kim “Rocket Man”). The high state of tensions even led to false missile alerts in Hawaii and Japan, but was defused in negotiations beginning in early 2018.
12 Jun 2018 Singapore Summit▲
Following the collapse of North Korea’s Punggyre-ri Nuclear Test Site in late 2017, North Korea and South Korea entered into talks, resulting in an invitation from North Korean President Kim Jong-un to meet with US President Donald Trump. In a first-ever meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, Trump met Kim in Singapore in June 2018 and together they issued a joint statement agreeing to new peaceful relations and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, in December North Korea announced it would not denuclearize until the US reduced troop numbers in South Korea, accusing the US of misrepresenting the deal.
15 Mar 2019–? Oct 2020 2019–20 Hong Kong protests▲
In 2019 the Hong Kong government introduced the Fugitive Offenders extradition bill, which critics accused of undermining Hong Kong’s legal system by effectively allowing the People’s Republic of China to arrest political dissidents in Hong Kong. Beginning in March, increasingly large demonstrations within Hong Kong protested the bill, reaching a peak size of several hundred thousand in June–July. Eventually the government withdrew the bill in October in the face of growing violence, but were unable to assuage the suspicions of the activists. Protests were renewed in 2020, despite the threat of COVID-19, but were largely brought to an end by an authority crackdown in September–October.
1 Dec 2019–pres. COVID-19 in Asia-Pacific▲
In late 2019 a mysterious new disease emerged in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, and was identified as a new coronavirus (COVID-19) on 8 January 2020. Ineffective responses by the local authorities led to the virus spreading across China and the world that same month, leading the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 31st. Despite this, strict measures and experience with prior pandemics helped China and East Asia to generally report low death tolls relative to the rest of the world by mid-January 2023: over 160,000 in Indonesia, 65,000 in Philippines, 62,000 in Japan, 43,000 in Vietnam, 36,000 in Malaysia, 33,000 in Thailand, 32,000 in South Korea, 19,000 in Myanmar, 15,000 in Taiwan, 12,000 in Hong Kong, and 5,000 in China. However, China’s December 2022 abandonment of its “zero-Covid’ strategy in the face of popular protests may lead to a sharp rise in its already questioned COVID figures.