|Map of Asia|
CIAO DATE: 03/02
Volume 3, Number 3, October 2001
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The quarter did not begin on Sept. 11, but most events that came before pale in significance and require reassessment in light of Washington's new war on terrorism. The horrific attacks may help usher in the "post post-Cold War era," by creating an opportunity for a fundamentally changed relationship between Washington and both Moscow and Beijing, while providing Tokyo with the incentive (and excuse) to take a major step toward becoming a "normal" nation. One diplomatic casualty has been President Bush's long-anticipated first visit to Tokyo and Seoul. While Bush is still slated to attend the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Shanghai, his planned visits with Washington's two Northeast Asia allies were canceled (as was a follow-up trip to Beijing). It is a missed opportunity for President Bush finally to lay out his vision for East Asia.
U.S. - Japan
There appears to be a troubling - if not dangerous - pattern in Japanese politics. Let's call it the "Koizumi syndrome": bold announcements that launch high hopes that are then dashed by a combination of a failure to follow-up and the obstacles and inertia that are built into the Japanese political system. This diagnosis could prove premature: the prime minister might yet confound his critics. But recent terrorism has altered Japan's domestic political terrain, forcing Koizumi to restructure his priorities. If it derails attempts to reform the country's ailing economy and blocks substantive efforts to assist the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, the bilateral relationship could become a victim of the "Koizumi syndrome."
U.S. - China
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks provided a new strategic focus for U.S.-China relations. Chinese President Jiang immediately condemned the terrorist actions and offered China's support for the Bush administration's global counterterrorism effort. Beijing sent a counter-terrorism delegation to share intelligence that might aid the war on terrorism. There was also business as usual. An important step aimed at avoiding future mid-air collisions was taken when Chinese and U.S. military delegations met on Guam in a special meeting of the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement. Discord over China's alleged transfer of missile components to Pakistan resulted in sanctions on a Chinese company. U.S. Secretary of State Powell traveled to Beijing and reassured the Chinese people that the U.S. views China as a friend, not as an adversary.
U.S. - Korea
As this quarter drew to a close, South Korea endured a domestic political crisis and faced high economic uncertainty. Following a no-confidence vote on Unification Minister Lim Dong-won, President Kim Dae-jung replaced his Cabinet and prepared to govern without his party's control of the National Assembly. This political crisis brought to the surface deep misgivings in South Korea about the president's Sunshine Policy. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks ignited fears about international damage to South Korea's economy. Seoul also fears that Washington's preoccupation with terrorism will further reduce prospects of a resumption of U.S.-DPRK talks.
U.S. - Russia
The events of Sept. 11 put the U.S.-Russia relationship in a whole new perspective. Analysts are speculating that Russia can use cooperation in the fight against terrorism as a bargaining chip. The new U.S. ambassador in Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, however, has insisted that the agenda with Russia remains unchanged. Whatever may be the case, President Vladimir Putin has been unequivocal in his support for the United States, and Washington has much to be thankful for this. Putin undoubtedly realizes, however, that Russia is walking a tightrope.
U.S. - Southeast Asia
In the future, the benchmark for U.S. relations with countries in Southeast Asia will be how they respond to the new level of global terrorism initiated on Sept. 11 and to Washington's call for a worldwide coalition to combat terrorism. Nearly all Southeast Asian governments quickly expressed horror and sympathy. Practical responses were mixed. ASEAN's ministerial-level meetings in July offered an opportunity for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to make clear that the Bush administration was committed to the region. In July, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced a shift toward expanded relations, including security relations, with the United States.
China - Southeast Asia
During the third quarter, China reaffirmed its support for multilateralism by attending a series of meetings held in conjunction with the annual gathering of ASEAN foreign ministers and by hosting a four-nation ministerial conference on drug control. On the bilateral level, Thailand's prime minister visited China, while Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, journeyed to Hanoi. China and ASEAN were still unable to reach agreement on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. Officials are now studying a compromise formulation drafted by the Philippines.
China - Taiwan
The stalemate in cross-Strait political dialogue has continued in large part because Beijing has no incentive to make progress that would benefit the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan's December elections. Rather, Beijing has continued to indicate its preference for dealing with the opposition a tactic that may again prove counterproductive. Economic problems and pending World Trade Organization accession have focused Taipei's attention on cross-Strait economic relations. In these circumstances, President Chen Shui-bian overcame resistance within his own party to closer economic ties with China. Meanwhile, the prospect of Sino-U.S. cooperation against terrorism is creating some anxiety in Taiwan.
North Korea - South Korea
Inter-Korean relations during the past quarter were marked by two events; each pointed in opposite directions. In August, a contentious visit to Pyongyang by Southern unification activists brought tensions within the ROK over Northern policy to boiling point, leading to the collapse of the ruling coalition. But in September, Pyongyang suddenly announced its readiness to resume dialogue with the South, having frozen this for most of the year. Ministerial talks were duly held in Seoul, and a schedule was set to reopen most of the various tranches of dialogue and cooperation that had been in abeyance - as well as some encouraging new ones.
China - Korea
PRC President Jiang Zemin visited Pyongyang for the first time in over a decade to re-consolidate relations with the DPRK. South Korean business redoubled its rush to take advantage of its proximity to the only island of sustained growth in the global economy. This quarter also saw the emergence of concern among South Korean researchers, who worry that China's rising competitiveness could overtake South Korea. The dark side of growth in Sino-South Korean ties was evident in the form of increased drug smuggling from China, illegal entries by an increasing number of ethnic Korean Chinese, frustrations over perceived unequal treatment of ethnic Korean Chinese when they returned to Korea, and tensions on how to manage North Korean refugees.
Japan - China
Japan's debate over history continued to buffet relations with China. Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro's intention to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15 further exacerbated relations. Koizumi yielded to internal and external (read: Chinese) pressures, visiting the shrine on Aug. 13. Following the visit, Japanese diplomacy turned toward a damage limitation strategy. It was also rough going on the economic front. Trade disputes remained unresolved. Security relations are troubled by Chinese maritime research vessels in Japan's exclusive economic zone. "Defense of Japan 2001," Japan's defense White Paper, gave greater definition to China's military modernization and the implications for Japanese security.
Japan - Korea
The quarter's events were obfuscated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Seoul and Tokyo responded to the horrific events with statements of support for America's anti-terrorism campaign. Japan-South Korea relations continued their downward spiral because of history-related disputes with little hope of resolution in sight. Japan-North Korea relations remain dead in the water. Is there any good news? Not really. But perpetually optimistic, this column notes interesting developments that shed light on an otherwise gloomy quarter.
China - Russia
The third quarter began with the signing of a historic friendship treaty between Russia and China that was inspired, at least partially, by their difficult relations with Washington. By the quarter's end, however, both Moscow and Beijing found their foreign policy priorities significantly altered by the terrorist attacks on the United States. The two are now faced with the possibility of a strategic plunge by the world's sole superpower into their highly volatile "backyard." The Sino-Russian friendship treaty and the Shanghai Cooperative Organization - the two pillars of Moscow and Beijing's regional foreign and security policies - will be severely tested by a fast changing security environment at both the global and regional levels.
In recent months, Europe has taken important steps to strengthen its political involvement in the region, notably on the Korean Peninsula. This reflects progress in efforts to make European foreign policies more coherent and effective through a strengthening of the European Union's "Common Foreign and Security Policy." Europe's increasing influence in the Asia Pacific can also be felt economically, as Europe's negotiations with Beijing over China's WTO membership have made clear. Still, Europe's political influence in the region remains that of an important subsidiary player, rather than of a great power. On the whole, Europe's modest but growing involvement has been constructive and welcome.