Potential exploitation of the energy reserves has transformed the Ryukyu island chain issue into a flashpoint for nationalist sensitivities in Japan and China. In the context of leadership transitions in China and possibly Japan, this could escalate into a significant regional issue.
Burma's tentative steps towards democracy and human rights reforms are being rewarded with re-engagement by the West, exemplified most recently by the visit of David Cameron. It vindicates the East's structured engagement, providing a massive boost to the ASEAN group of countries.
As North Korea’s leadership transitions, Kim Jong-un will have to contend with a region that is undergoing significant geopolitical change whilst also dealing with possible challenges to his own fledgling regime.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is looking shaky, to say the least. Although initially riding strong on his policy of rapprochement with China last Fall, the Abe administration has been hit by a number of scandals since December. Abe’s popularity has plummeted to 28% (July ‘07) from a high of 60% (Sept ‘06).
The end of ambiguity about Pyongyang's nuclear capacity raises fundamental questions affecting China, the United States, and the future of international non-proliferation strategy. Indirectly, these consequences could actually work to the advantage of the West in its attempts to prevent Iran 'going nuclear'.
The UN Security Council is certain to impose sanctions on North Korea. But, since these are likely to involve – at least initially – just cutting off trade and diplomatic contacts, no significant impact is expected.