In the Far East, the story of this decade is the story of two men who define not just Asia, but a growing and strengthening challenge to the United States, notes correspondent Barry Petersen.
First, China’s President Xi Jinping. His big spending on the military included deploying, just this month, the very first Chinese-built aircraft carrier, a bid to confront the U.S. over control of the region.
But closer to home, Xi has not been able to control this year’s pro-democracy riots in Hong Kong triggered by a bill, since withdrawn, that would have allowed extradition of criminals to the mainland. Protesters saw it as a way to whisk away troublesome activist and journalists.
Once the jewel of Asia, the city is now better known for tear gas and street violence, with no end in sight. Asia’s other strong man, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, took power when his father died in 2011.
The faces of his family dynasty are everywhere. But to solidify his power, Kim is making life better for an emerging middle class. Department stores have goods, and Pyongyang has a new amusement park.
Even President Trump’s name-calling (he referred to the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” at the United Nations) seems to have raised Kim’s status. Two nuclear summits followed, as did a remarkable photo op, when Mr. Trump became the first sitting American president to step into North Korea. “Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Mr. Trump said.
But months after that photo op, economic sanctions are still in place, and Kim just told his general to accelerate military development. That could mean new nuclear weapons or ballistic missile tests.
This decade began with a nuclear horror: explosions at a Japanese power plant after flooding from an earthquake-triggered tsunami. It ends under a different sort of nuclear cloud that threatens the United States, and the world.