The fight for energy, the need to provide for and control the increasing population and the lust for power are driving the planet toward a massive military showdown.

Since the dawn of the 21st century, five of the six countries involved in the six-party talks have increased their military spending by 50% or more. The sixth, Japan, has maintained a steady, if sizeable military budget while nonetheless aspiring to keep pace. Every country in the region is now eagerly investing staggering amounts of money in new weapons systems and new offensive capabilities.

The arms race in Northeast Asia undercuts all talk of peace in the region. It also sustains a growing global military-industrial complex. Northeast Asia is where four of the world’s largest militaries – those of the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – confront each other. Together, the countries participating in the six-party talks account for approximately 65% of world military expenditures, with the US responsible for roughly half the global total.

Here is the real news that should hit the front pages of papers today: wars grip Iraq, Afghanistan and large swathes of Africa, but the heart of the global military-industrial complex lies in Northeast Asia. Any attempt to drive a stake through this potentially destabilizing monster must start with the militaries that face one another there.

Of course, sustaining military budgets of such grand proportions is not possible. Read The Rise and Fall of the Great Empires by Paul Kennedy to learn what history teaches us. Downfall, catastrophic downfall is inevitable.

Critics of the North Korean regime often point out that its military spending is ultimately a human-rights violation, because the government essentially takes food out of the mouths of its people to spend on armaments. North Korea is, however, just a particularly gross example of an expanding global problem. Each of the six countries in the new Pacific arms race has devised a wealth of rationales for its military spending – and each has ignored significant domestic needs in the process.

Given the sums that would be necessary to address the decommissioning of nuclear weapons, the looming crisis of climate change, and the destabilizing gap between rich and poor, such spending priorities are in themselves a threat to humanity.

The world put 37% more into military spending in 2006 than in 1997. If the “peace dividend” that was to follow the end of the Cold War never quite appeared, a decade later the world finds itself burdened with quite the opposite: a genuine peace deficit.

The same is true in the US