|Map of Asia|
CIAO DATE: 07/03
Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2003
Full Issue (PDF, 166 pages, 532 KB)
Diplomacy Fails with Iraq, Is North Korea Next? (PDF format, 15 pages, 61 kbs) by Ralph A. Cossa, President, Pacific Forum CSIS
Why diplomacy failed in Iraq is subject to intense debate; that it failed is indisputable. What does this mean for U.S. policy in Asia and for multilateral cooperation? Will the UN now step up and deal with the growing nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula? For those focused on Asia, the big question now is, "Is North Korea Next?" Does the perceived U.S. "impatience" with diplomacy point to more unilateralism and a greater tendency or preference to employ the military option against Pyongyang? I think not! But the perception is growing and how Washington deals with it will impact U.S. credibility and acceptability long after Saddam is gone. Iraq and North Korea are not Asia's only concerns. An outbreak of deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has magnified the anticipated economic consequences of the war in Iraq on Asian economies and, especially, airlines.
U.S. - Japan
The dream of Japan becoming "the UK of Asia" doesn't seem so absurd after a quarter in which London and Tokyo proved to be the U.S.'s most reliable allies. The government of Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro has provided the U.S. with vocal political support, active diplomatic support, and expanding logistical support for the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. New realism in Japanese security thinking has propelled the alliance from one high note to another. Still, dealing with North Korea is likely to be troublesome. When the serious diplomacy begins, the strains in the U.S. and Japanese positions will reveal themselves. The last quarter has also proven the poverty of the Japanese government's current economic thinking. This situation cannot continue.
U.S. - China
A flurry of diplomatic activity took place as Chinese and U.S. officials conferred on how to compel Iraq to relinquish weapons of mass destruction and manage the emerging crisis over the North Korean nuclear weapons programs. Beijing opposed the U.S. strike on Iraq, but took care to prevent its antiwar position from damaging the bilateral relationship. U.S. and Chinese presidents engaged in telephone diplomacy and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell consulted frequently with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick visited China to discuss economic concerns. Cooperation on counterterrorism advanced with the convening of the third U.S.-China antiterrorism consultation and the second meeting on cutting financial fund links to terrorists.
U.S. - Korea
Sharp rhetorical attacks and military friction between the U.S. and North Korea mounted, reaching the highest level since the 1994 nuclear crisis. With South Korea insisting that war was not a feasible option, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, restarted a nuclear reactor, tested two surface-to-surface missiles, sent a fighter into South Korean airspace, and shadowed a U.S. reconnaissance plane. The Bush administration downplayed the North Korean actions and, while hesitating to negotiate bilaterally with Pyongyang, underlined its commitment to peaceful diplomacy. The administration elevated its deterrent posture on the Peninsula, even as it concentrated its main foreign policy efforts on bringing about "regime change" in Iraq.
U.S. - Russia
The U.S.-Russia strategic partnership is enduring a rocky patch. The war in Iraq has created serious discord in the bilateral relationship. Many in Russia see the attack as part of an effort by the U.S. to monopolize the world petroleum markets and further its political and economic domination of the globe. Now that the dye has been cast, the Russian leadership is unlikely to do much more than simply state its disagreement with the war. Nevertheless, many are left wondering whether this will do irreparable damage to a budding strategic partnership that is quite fragile. Given the upcoming Duma elections at the end of this year and the presidential election early next year, it appears that Putin has finally drawn the line at how far he will cooperate with the U.S.
U.S. - Southeast Asia
U.S. relations with the Southeast Asian states in the first quarter of 2003 were dominated first by the anticipation and then by the reality of the war on Iraq. Other issues in bilateral and regional relations continued, and the Iraq conflict was not central to U.S. relations with every country of the region, even though the conflict was the overriding focus of attention. While there was a range of reactions - from solid support to vocal condemnation - the main response, from governments and peoples, was critical of the U.S. approach. With the outcome - or at least the length and destructiveness - of the war increasingly uncertain as the quarter came to an end, there was at least a danger that this episode would cause lasting damage in terms of how the U.S. and its international role are viewed around the region.
China - Southeast Asia
The quarter saw a relative lull in China's intense Southeast Asian diplomacy. This was understandable in light of Beijing's preoccupation with crises in Iraq and North Korea, and the transfer of power to a new generation of leaders. It signaled no decline in China's keen interest in expanding ties with its southern neighbors. Leaders of Thailand and Burma visited China for talks with Hu Jintao and members of his team as well as leaders relinquishing senior party and state positions. Chinese commentary directed toward Southeast Asia strongly backed the anti-Iraq war stance of most ASEAN nations and called for opposition to "unipolarity" and unilateralism, i.e., U.S. leadership in international affairs. The benefits to be gained by China's neighbors from China's growing economic power continued to be major themes in China's dialogue throughout the region.
China - Taiwan
The first flight of a Taiwan aircraft to China in over 50 years at the time of the Lunar New Year highlighted the growing need for direct travel and the continuing political constraints on accomplishing it. Absorbed in the transition to its fourth generation leadership, Beijing has adhered to the Taiwan policy parameters set forth at the 16th Party Congress, including the active encouragement of closer economic links with Taiwan. Within Chen Shui-bian's administration, opinion has now shifted noticeably from the slogan "active opening, effective management" adopted in 2001 to a more cautious approach to policy on economic ties and direct travel to the mainland. Economic concerns and electoral positioning have played a role in this shift. Meanwhile, Taiwan's delay of major arms purchases from the U.S. is creating strains in U.S.-Taiwan relations.
North Korea - South Korea
Inter-Korean relations in the first quarter of 2003 were a curious mix. Ministerial talks, economic dialogue, family reunions, semi-official civic events, and others were all held. Business and aid contacts went ahead as is now normal. There was one breakthrough: the partial opening of two temporary roads across the demilitarized zone, breaching the heavily armed border for the first time in half a century. Rejoicing was muted as Pyongyang unleashed one provocation after another: quitting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), restarting its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, shadowing a U.S. spy plane, test firing two short-range missiles, and more. It was admitted that the June 2000 summit with Kim Jong-il, for which Kim Dae-jung won that year's Nobel Peace Prize, had been preceded by a secret payment of at least $500 million to North Korea. The investigations now under way pose a delicate challenge for South Korea's new president, Roh Moo-hyun.
China - Korea
"Regime change" has been the order of the day not only in Iraq, but also (in more orderly form) in China and South Korea this quarter. The Chinese "fourth generation" leadership is committed to perpetuating a stable atmosphere for economic development, and should welcome the vision of regional cooperation in Northeast Asia espoused by newly elected ROK President Roh Moo-hyun. Burgeoning bilateral trade and investment anchors the China-South Korea economic relationship and underscores mutual interests in a diplomatic approach that peacefully bounds North Korean nuclear threats and introduces gradual economic reforms to the North. There is pressure on China to use its leverage to bound North Korea's nuclear efforts, creating an unprecedented new dilemma (and opportunity?) for Beijing: should it lean toward Washington or Seoul in shaping its policies toward Pyongyang?
Japan - China
The new year began with controversy. Territorial issues over the Senkaku/Daoyutai Islands resurfaced at the beginning of January and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine followed in short order. Political reaction in Beijing to the Yasukuni visit again derailed planning for a Koizumi visit to China and complicated efforts to secure Beijing's cooperation in dealing with Pyongyang's nuclear program. Nevertheless, the two governments demonstrated an ability to work through practical problems posed by North Korean refugees in China (some Japanese nationals) seeking asylum in Japan. At the same time, economic relations continued to broaden and deepen. And, with a new leadership coming to power in Beijing, there were signs of new thinking with respect to Japan and history.
Japan - Korea
The quarter saw no major bumps in Japan-South Korea relations as the two countries awaited the transition to the new Roh Moo-hyun government in the ROK. North Korean provocations during the quarter had a unifying effect on Seoul-Tokyo ties. The quarter saw a series of bilateral meetings between Japanese and South Korean officials. Although nothing substantive came of these contacts, they were quite important in firming up the ground as all awaited the transition to the new government in South Korea. The Japanese government and public have responded with growing firmness to North Korean agitations. Firing on an intruding DPRK ship, followed by the sinking of another such ship, followed this quarter by the launch of Japan's first military intelligence satellites are all sure signs that Japan's postwar pacifist tradition does not exclude military actions in self-defense. Given this recent precedent, would Japan enact sanctions against the next North Korean provocation, be this a ballistic missile test or reprocessing? If one looks carefully, they already have started.
China - Russia
For Russia and China, the first quarter of 2003 may well be the last few months before their preferred world - multilateralism for Iraq and bilateralism for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - began to fade into one of unilateralism. Amid unprecedented diplomatic activities regarding Iraq and Korea, relations between Moscow and Beijing were quietly entering a new phase as China's leadership change was taking definitive shape. The fourth generation of Chinese leaders has perhaps little to do with the once enduring "Russian factor" of the previous generations of Chinese leaders, either as China's friend or foe. Publicly, Russian officials welcomed China's "very positive and smooth process of power transfer." "Some innovations" were expected, however. Engaging the new faces in China, therefore, was a top priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his colleagues.