|Map of Asia|
CIAO DATE: 11/02
Volume 4, Number 2, July 2002
Full Issue (PDF, 137 pages, 1,16kb)
In June, Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the most comprehensive statement to date on U.S. Asia policy, underscoring the importance of America's regional alliances while reinforcing the administration's focus on antiterrorism. It set a positive tone regarding Sino-U.S. relations. The same cannot be said about North Korea. While expressing hope that a U.S.-DPRK dialogue would soon begin, Powell also laid out specific prerequisites for progress that will guarantee arduous negotiations if and when the two sides ever actually sit down and talk. Overshadowing Powell's speech was President Bush's June 1 West Point address, which signaled a more proactive (if not pre-emptive) strategy in the war on terrorism. Meanwhile, multilateralism took on new energy in Asia, highlighted by a de facto defense "summit" and a genuine summit on confidence building involving numerous Asian heads of state (but not the U.S.). Also capturing the international spotlight was the release of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.
U.S. - Japan
It has been a relatively quiet quarter for United States-Japan relations. Political, economic, and security relations have continued on a positive course. Yet if the trajectory is good, there has been a big change in a critical element of the U.S.-Japan relationship: the popularity of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro has suffered a precipitous drop. Since public support was the prime minister's only card in his battles with the old guard of his Liberal Democratic Party, the plunge in public approval ratings threatens to undermine his entire legislative program. Koizumi's weakness will also be felt in relations with the U.S. The failure to pursue aggressive economic reform could damage his credibility. The prime minister has already been forced to give up on legislation that would allow the Japanese government to respond to crises - a indicator of Japan's "new" seriousness in security affairs.
U.S. - China
An active agenda of exchanges and consultations took place this quarter, providing Sino-U.S. relations with a modicum of stability. Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao toured the U.S., stopping in Washington for two days of meetings with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and many Cabinet members. Cooperation between Washington and Beijing in the war on terrorism advanced with the establishment of semi-annual consultations on sources of terrorist financing. Broader discussions were also held in the second round of U.S.-China counterterrorism talks. Talks also provided a boost to commercial and economic ties. Beijing remained both suspicious and perplexed by U.S. policy toward Taiwan, and verbal gaffes by President Bush and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz created unease on both sides of the Strait. Finally, the U.S. and Chinese militaries explored the possibility of resuming contacts.
U.S. - Korea
This quarter opened with a bang and ended with a long pause. South Korea's Special Presidential Envoy Lim Dong-won undertook a critical mission to North Korea to put the process of inter-Korean reconciliation back on track. North Korea's willingness to meet with Lim signaled a desire to improve the political atmosphere after more than a year of verbal sparring with the Bush administration. Pyongyang agreed to resume bilateral negotiations with Washington, decided to continue reunions of divided Korean families, organize a new round of South-North economic talks, and continue discussions with South Korea on military confidence building. What most influenced North Korea's decision will probably never be known precisely. Most likely, fear of Washington's new aggressiveness in confronting potential enemies post-Sept. 11 was a significant factor.
U.S. - Russia
Presidents Bush and Putin carried out successful summits in Moscow and St. Petersburg in May and signed a groundbreaking strategic arms reduction agreement. Russia was welcomed into NATO and given a seat on a council with a voice in alliance matters. The U.S. also was behind the pledge by the G-7 nations to contribute $20 billion over 10 years to nonproliferation programs in Russia and the former Soviet republics and to give Russia a permanent seat at future G-8 meetings. Most important, the U.S. and Russia have continued their cooperation in the war on terrorism and Russia continues to give the U.S. a free hand in Central Asia. In return the U.S. leadership remains mum on Chechnya. Nevertheless, more is expected in Russia in return for unquestioned support of the U.S. Putin is beginning to feel some domestic opposition to his policy of "appeasing" the U.S.; how long he can continue this policy if Russia appears to accrue no advantage is questionable.
U.S. - Southeast Asia
The quarter was marked by continued U.S. efforts to consolidate and clarify its counterterrorism strategy in the region. In the Philippines, U.S. military training and assistance seemed to produce more energetic and effective operations by the Philippine Army against Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. Politically and operationally, U.S. counterterrorism cooperation with Malaysia strengthened notably while collaboration with Singapore stayed close. Indonesia remained the primary focus of U.S. concern and even here significant movement toward closer working relations became evident. Terrorism-related issues continued to overshadow more traditional U.S. concerns in the region regarding economic issues, human rights, and an incipient strategic rivalry with China. U.S.-China relations were relatively quiescent - facilitating a single-minded focus on terrorism in U.S. relations with Southeast Asia.
China - Southeast Asia
With the U.S. preoccupied by the war on terrorism and Southeast Asians concerned with economic recovery, China found new space for increasing its presence and influence among its southern neighbors. Beijing combined diplomacy with promises of expanded trade in an effort to counter Southeast Asian fears that China's economic acceleration would leave them impoverished - at least by pre-1997 standards - and with few options for regaining rapid growth. The worries remain, but are at least not getting worse. China's attentive cultivation of the region included visits by PRC Vice President Hu Jintao to Malaysia and Singapore. Relief is also widespread in most ASEAN capitals that the U.S. and China appear to be mending relations. ASEAN capitals are concerned that firmer, less ambiguous U.S. commitments to Taiwan's security could lead to another, more serious, Taiwan Strait crisis but do not see this happening in the near term.
China - Taiwan
Despite the absence of formal dialogue, Beijing and Taipei have been signaling interest in achieving direct trade and travel and probing possibilities for new mechanisms for negotiations. Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian took an important step in moving this process forward when he indicated that the private sector could play a role in negotiating the "three links." Beijing responded saying it was ready to negotiate with business representatives from Taipei. The challenge is whether mutually acceptable roles for the private and government elements in a new negotiating process can be defined to both sides' satisfaction. It is not clear whether this can be done. Economic ties continue to expand; the long-awaited oil exploration joint venture deal has been signed. Even while these and other positive developments occur, Beijing and Taipei continue to confront each other internationally and strengthen their military preparations.
North Korea - South Korea
The DPRK's June 29 sinking of an ROK patrol boat, killing five, may be a final blow to ROK President Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy. This wholly unexpected and allegedly unprovoked attack did not escalate militarily but will weaken those in Seoul or Washington who would give DPRK leader Kim Jong-il the benefit of the doubt. As such, it is baffling to see what Pyongyang hopes to gain by this own goal. The quarter actually began promisingly: Kim Dae-jung's special envoy returned from Pyongyang with commitments to restart stalled dialogue. But only family reunions were held; other meetings did not materialize. Unofficial contacts continued, including a boat and two planeloads of civic groups and a tite-a-tite between the offspring of the ROK and DPRK's erstwhile leaders. In short, it is a mixed picture: frustrating in many ways, yet not without hope.
China - Korea
The April 15 crash of a China Air flight from Beijing to Pusan provided a tragic omen for a tumultuous quarter. The World Cup somewhat overshadowed a diplomatic imbroglio over a steady flow of North Korean asylum-seekers. The diplomatic standoff over the refugees that had arrived in the ROK compound may mark a turn to a more complex and contentious relationship as the two countries celebrate the 10th anniversary of diplomatic normalization. The public awareness of both good and bad aspects of the relationship continues to broaden through exports of pop culture, private sector, and citizen-led exchanges, and dramatic footage of one DPRK refugee being forcibly dragged from the ROK compound by Chinese public security officials. Both sides struggle to construct the diplomatic and political infrastructure necessary to bear the weight of increasingly intensive interactions. The underlying force in the relationship remains a perception of China as an irresistible business opportunity and of South Korea as an economic model and significant investor in China's economic growth.
Japan - China
The quarter started well with a series of high-level visits marking the 30th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations. National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng came to Japan and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro met PRC Premier Zhu Rongji on Hainan Island. But the ever-present force of history resurfaced April 21 when Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine. Less than a month later, the Shenyang incident, in which Chinese police entered the Japanese consulate and forcibly removed North Korean asylum-seekers, turned into a diplomatic cause celebre. And prominent Japanese political leaders again waded into the debate over the constitutionality of Japan possessing nuclear weapons. Both governments worked to keep relations on track. Japan's growing trade with and investments on the mainland served to cushion relations during the rough patches of the quarter.
Japan - Korea
The story of the quarter was Japan's re-engagement with the two Koreas on several levels. For Seoul-Tokyo relations, the World Cup soccer matches overshadowed important, but quiet, efforts at resuming security dialogue. For Tokyo-Pyongyang relations, baby steps toward resuming long-suspended normalization talks appear to have been made. Though the World Cup did not mark modernity for either already-modern country, its success was in no small part a function of the fact that it was hosted by two of the more advanced, market-savvy, globalized, open-society countries in Asia. This not only gave the games a luster not easily tarnished, but it also is a lasting image for Japan-South Korea cooperation. Not bad for a null outcome.
China - Russia
This quarter witnessed major changes in world politics as President Vladimir Putin's Russia took gigantic, and perhaps final, steps into the West (joining NATO and going beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty). Despite the huge impact of Russia's Westernization, Beijing and Moscow were able to soft-land their cordial, though sensitive, relationship and to institutionalize the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a joint venture that has been under severe constraint following the U.S. strategic return to Central Asia after Sept. 11, 2001. While both Moscow and Beijing improved and/or stabilized their relations with Washington, all three faced a post-deterrence world in which nuclear weapons were no longer viewed as weapons of last resort and in which the incentives for nonnuclear states to obtain such weapons were greater than ever.