|Map of Asia|
CIAO DATE: 03/02
Volume 3, Number 4, January 2002
Full Issue (Download the complete issue in PDF format)
As the Year of the Horse comes galloping in, U.S.-Asia relations generally appear to be on the upswing. The one exception is on the Korean Peninsula, where Pyongyang's refusal to take "yes" for an answer has resulted in a steady decline in U.S.-DPRK relations and added stress to U.S.-ROK relations. Despite the upswing, some problems remain and may grow, especially if (as seems inevitable) Washington follows through with its December announcement to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This, plus the Bush administration's current tendency to view all events through an anti-terrorism lens, has left many wondering about America's overall national security strategy and President George Bush's vision for Asia. The White House's effort to closely associate itself with the APEC Shanghai Accord's blueprint for future regional economic cooperation demonstrates the Bush administration's interest in breathing new life into this important Asia-Pacific multilateral forum.
U.S. - Japan
He did it. Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro delivered on an unprecedented package of measures to support the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. Not only did the Japanese government act in a timely manner, but shrewd diplomacy by the prime minister disarmed critics within the region. If recent events are reminiscent of the halcyon days of the alliance, the memories may be more bittersweet than some prefer. As in the good old days, the strengthening of security ties poses a sharp contrast to those on the economic front. Trade frictions, in that old favorite, the steel sector, are one irritant. The real problem is the continuing deterioration of the Japanese economy. Tokyo's failure to take forceful action in dealing with the troubled financial sector has set off alarms in Washington. Officials in both capitals recognize that any solution depends on political courage in Tokyo and that - recent developments notwithstanding - is always in short supply.
U.S. - China
The re-ordering of U.S. security priorities in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks provided an opportunity for Washington and Beijing to work together toward a common goal. Cooperation against terrorism and the successful first-ever meeting of U.S. President George W. Bush and PRC President Jiang Zemin at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Shanghai contributed to an improvement in the overall atmosphere of the Sino-U.S. relationship in the final quarter of 2001. At the same time, however, friction between the two countries persisted on issues of long-standing controversy, including human rights, nonproliferation, missile defense, and Taiwan. After 15 years of negotiations, China finally joined the World Trade Organization, bringing a market of 1.3 billion people into the global trading system.
U.S. - Korea
The war against terrorism largely shaped the development of U.S.-Korean relations this quarter. Although the actual conflict took place far away, new U.S. military and diplomatic needs, South Korea's alliance responsibilities, Bush administration rhetoric, and North Korea's reactions complicated and altered security relations on the Peninsula. South Korea gave a measured response to the war in Afghanistan. Reluctance arose from the thin domestic political support for Korean casualties, as well as worries about complicating relations with Middle Eastern nations. U.S.-North Korean relations and North-South relations deteriorated in tandem through early December. North Korea reacted to the hardened U.S. rhetoric and perceived military build-up on the Peninsula as a threat of attack and began ratcheting up its anti-U.S. rhetoric accordingly.
U.S. - Russia
The global war against terrorism and the Taliban government in Afghanistan continued to galvanize the U.S.-Russia relationship and give it a newfound purpose. The summit meetings between Presidents Bush and Putin in Shanghai in October and in the United States in November went off very well. Differences over issues like the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and missile cuts were smoothed over as a united front in the war against terrorism was presented. Nevertheless, the U.S. vowed to push forward with the development of a missile defense system. In Russia, the war brought up a wider debate that has simmered in Russia for centuries: whether to join with the West or to define Russia's own unique path. Can Putin continue to dominate the Russian political world or will his decision to go with the West divide the Russian leadership? These questions are important to the people of Russia and ultimately for the U.S. as well.
U.S. - Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian states displayed a range of reactions to U.S. President George Bush's call for international support for the war on terrorism. Enthusiastic endorsement characterized the Philippine response as well as more quiet backing from Singapore. Thailand's support was slower and more tentative. Both Indonesia and Malaysia, while deploring the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, tempered their sympathy with warnings that the U.S. not target Islam generally. Most of these reactions can be explained by the domestic politics of each state and the Muslim proportions of their respective populations.
China - Southeast Asia
Confronted with rapid and largely uncomfortable shifts in the security environment around China's perimeter - the war in Afghanistan, U.S. military forces in Central Asia, new levels of military cooperation between the United States and both Pakistan and India, Moscow's turn toward Washington, and Japan's removal of some restrictions on use of its military forces - Beijing must regard Southeast Asia as the one arena in which it made some gains during the quarter. It consolidated a close relationship with Myanmar, laid the groundwork for improved cooperation with Indonesia and the Philippines, and set much of the agenda for the ASEAN Plus Three summit in Brunei in November, where it won approval in principle for an ASEAN-China free trade area. Concerns center on whether growing interdependency in such areas binds China in an open, constructive regional system - as Southeast Asians hope - or provides increased political leverage that Beijing can use to try to dominate its neighbors and weaken the U.S. role in Asia.
China - Taiwan
Taiwan's Dec. 1 legislative elections have brought dramatic changes in Taiwan politics, but their implications for cross-Strait relations are not yet clear. Both China and Taiwan have said the elections do not change their basic policies, but whether a coalition will be built by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, who may participate in it, and Beijing's reassessment of Chen's longer term prospects remain uncertain. Meanwhile, Taipei has gradually implemented a range of measures to expand cross-Strait economic relations, and both Taipei and Beijing have been admitted to the World Trade Organization. Economic interdependence's potential to shape cross-Strait relations is symbolized by the pending, but not yet approved, joint venture between Chinese Petroleum Corporation and China National Offshore Oil Corporation for exploratory drilling in the Taiwan Strait.
North Korea - South Korea
A frustrating quarter for inter-Korean relations was an apt, if sad, close to a disappointing year. Hopes raised by the resumption of official talks in September were dashed when the North refused to come to Seoul for future meetings - citing security concerns post Sept. 11. The South finally accepted North Korea's Geumgangsan resort as a venue, but talks in November broke up with no agreement: the first time this has happened in the latest era of North-South relations. There was even a brief exchange of gunfire at the DMZ. Still, the year ended with glimmers of hope. A Northern team spent a fortnight visiting Southern nuclear facilities under Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization auspices, and Seoul announced the lifting of its state of alert, so removing Pyongyang's pretext for not talking. There is thus a fair chance that official dialogue will resume early in 2002. Whether it will get anywhere is another matter.
China - Korea
China's official entry into the World Trade Organization after 15 years of negotiations brought widespread expectations that WTO entry will revolutionize China's economic relations and transform Sino-Korean trade and investment relations, although not always in positive ways. Remarkable testimony to the significance of that event for the Sino-ROK relationship is that shocking consular developments - China's execution of an ROK citizen without adequate representation provided by South Korea; the discovery of over 60 illegal Chinese stowaways, including 25 dead, in a failed attempt at illegal entry into South Korea via a local fishing boat; and an ROK Constitutional Court ruling overturning a Korean law that selectively provided special rights to overseas Koreans that China views as threatening to state sovereignty - hardly made ripples given the tidal wave of expectations for Sino-ROK economic relations.
Japan - China
Japan's relations with China entered the last quarter still reeling from the aftershock of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro's Aug. 13 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, while the October Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Shanghai loomed on the diplomatic calendar. Further complicating the relationship were Koizumi's efforts to provide rear-area military support to the United States in war against terrorism. At the same time, a trade dispute, involving Japanese provisional sanctions on Chinese agricultural products and China's retaliation, threatened to escalate. A last-day deal allowed both sides to declare victory and to look ahead, in a spirit of cooperation, to 2002 and the 30th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations. The efforts of Prime Minister Koizumi and Chinese President Jiang Zemin appear to have stabilized the bilateral relationship and opened the door to a promising new year.
Japan - Korea
The big news for the past quarter were the improvements in Seoul-Tokyo ties after months of controversy over history-related issues. While Japan-ROK relations appear to be back on track, Tokyo-Pyongyang relations veered badly off course following failed attempts to jump-start normalization talks; financial scandals involving the pro-DPRK Chosen Soren organization in Japan; and an altercation at sea. U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral coordination proceeded apace with American prosecution of the war against terrorism in Southwest Asia as one of the major topics of discussion.
China - Russia
From the war in Afghanistan to the anthrax scares to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) show to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) demise, Russia and China - together with the rest of the world - were barely able to keep up with the thrust and momentum of U.S. foreign policy in the last quarter of 2001. Despite their support for Washington, both were taken back by the persistence of Washington's "unilateralism." In their bilateral relations, Moscow and Beijing actively coordinated their policies for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism war. Toward the quarter's end, however, they started to diverge over the ABM issue.
Since India detonated five nuclear devices in May 1998, U.S.-India relations were dominated by a nuclear dispute. With the inauguration of the Bush administration in January 2001, prospects for improved relations were promising. The Bush administration took office with misgivings about sanctions, a desire to enhance or develop security-oriented relations with "friends and allies," concerns about China, and deep skepticism regarding elements of the nuclear nonproliferation regime such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. If these predilections were translated into policy, the U.S. and India could likely move beyond existing constraints to good relations and forge enhanced ties. In 2001, progress in U.S.-India relations, at a pace and of a character "visible to the naked eye," did occur. However, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the renewal of U.S.-Pakistani ties in their wake, and subsequent India-Pakistan tensions clouded the horizon of U.S.-India relations.