|Map of Asia|
CIAO DATE: 01/03
Volume 4, Number 3, October 2002
Full Issue (PDF, 135 pages, 2.6MB)
Concerns and complaints about Washington's Iraq policy and its broader approach toward the war on terrorism, and speculation regarding North Korea's diplomacy dominated East Asia security dialogue during the last quarter. This time last year, the world had rallied behind the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11. Much of that support and goodwill has dissipated. The reasons vary and are complex but two words are central to any explanation: Iraq and preemption; the latter being put forth not only in the Iraqi context but as the basis of a new national security strategy. Their long-term impact on America's East Asian relationships remains unclear; China-U.S. relations in particular could be challenged. Equally unclear is the impact of the DPRK's recent "smile diplomacy," which has seen an unprecedented effort by Pyongyang simultaneously to improve relations with Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington. Meanwhile, multilateralism seems to be thriving in East Asia, both with the U.S. and without.
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
Preparation for the U.S.-China October summit between Presidents George W. Bush and Jiang Zemin in Crawford, Texas proceeded smoothly this quarter. Washington endorsed China's claim that at least one separatist group in Xinjiang has links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network and announced that its assets in the U.S. would be frozen. The Chinese in turn released new rules on the export of missile technology and a missile technology control list. Both countries signaled their growing satisfaction with bilateral cooperation in the counterterrorism arena. A crisis was averted over Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's Aug. 3 statement that there is "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait. Overall, relations improved as both Beijing and Washington advanced their respective interests by emphasizing the positive elements of their relationship.
U.S. - Korea
This quarter began with a serious naval confrontation between North and South Korean patrol vessels on Korea's West Sea. It ended with the surprising diplomatic breakthrough in Japan-North Korea relations at the Koizumi-Kim summit in mid-September and the ensuing U.S. decision to send Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly to Pyongyang for consultations. Through it all, the Bush administration watched warily, postponing its special envoy's planned trip to Pyongyang in July, but cautiously welcoming the results of the summit meeting. Strategists planning the next U.S. diplomatic move now have to pay greater attention both to Japanese policy and South Korean public opinion, especially given growing anti-American sentiments in the ROK, stimulated by the death of two South Korean girls during a U.S. military training accident.
U.S. - Russia
At the beginning of the quarter, the U.S.-Russian antiterror coalition seemed in fine shape. In public appearances Russian leaders continued to insist that their country stood firmly behind the U.S. and was committed to closer integration with the West. But as the summer wore on it became apparent that the partnership had its limits. Two issues became major irritants. One was an old one that came back onto the radar screen - Chechnya, or in this case Chechen fighters operating in the Pankisi Gorge over the Georgian border. Another was an even older one - Iraq. Meanwhile Russia's flirtations with Iran and North Korea seemed directly in contravention of the U.S. policy of isolating the "axis of evil." In both Russia and the U.S. voices clamored for a realistic reassessment of the relationship. As autumn began it was unclear where the relationship was headed as the partnership weathered a stormy first anniversary.
U.S. - Southeast Asia
he U.S.-led war on terrorism continued to be the focus of attention. Several U.S. embassies in the region were closed on Sept. 11, underlining the emergence of the region as a major arena in the new global battleground. Long established political and economic issues also began to reassume their prior salience. In Burma recently freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was finally allowed freedom of movement but was unable to initiate a serious political dialogue. In Indonesia the restive region of Aceh produced a steady and depressing drumbeat of violence. The annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in Brunei along with the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Korea, and Japan) and ASEAN Regional Forum meetings restored the ASEAN process to center stage. This resulted in the Joint Communiquè calling for increased cooperation to counter international terrorism and an ASEAN-U.S. Joint Declaration for cooperation.
The annual ASEAN Ministerial Meetings in Brunei gave Beijing multiple opportunities to argue for its version of multilateral security and economic cooperation and to empathize quietly with sensitivities bruised by superpower leadership. ASEAN's failure to agree on a code of conduct for the South China Sea permitted China to appear benign and forthcoming, without actually accepting any constraints on its activities. China's decision to award a large natural gas contract to Australia was a sharp disappointment to Jakarta, tempered by the offer of a less lucrative deal. The Indonesian military announced it would consider buying weapons from China to avoid U.S. embargoes. Hanoi resumed demarcating its border with China, but remains on the defensive about charges that it gave too much to Beijing in a 1999 boundary agreement. Taiwan aggressively exploited its economic leverage during the quarter to try to upgrade the level of contacts with several Southeast Asian governments.
China - Taiwan
President Chen Shui-bian's Aug. 3 remark that there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait caught Taiwan government officials, Washington, and Beijing by surprise. Taipei quickly sent out assurances that policy has not changed, Washington reiterated that it did not support independence, and Chen refrained from repeating this remark publicly. Chen's statements have complicated the prospects for progress on cross-Strait economic issues, although minor steps continue to be taken to ease restrictions on rapidly expanding cross-Strait economic ties. Beijing had other priorities this summer, with leadership transition maneuvering dominating the annual Beidaihe retreat amid preparations for the 16th Party Congress. Beijing had little time for Taiwan issues and no interest in new tensions in the Strait. There is no prospect of significant movement toward cross-Strait dialogue on economic issues until after the Party Congress in November.
North Korea - South Korea
quarter that began with the Northern navy sinking a Southern patrol boat - and Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy with it, or so it seemed - ended with soldiers from both sides clearing mines in the Demilitarized Zone to relink cross-border road and rail routes. On Sept. 29, athletes from both Koreas marched behind a unity flag to open the 14th Asian Games in Pusan: the first time the North has ever joined in a sporting event in the South. But past precedent counsels caution. From next February, a new South Korean president may take a harder line; especially if claims that Seoul paid for the 2000 North-South summit poison the atmosphere. Or a U.S. attack on Iraq - particularly if not under UN auspices - could spoil things. Japan's opting for engagement leaves Washington's tougher stance more isolated. Moves toward economic reform buttress hopes that this time the North really is trying to change, and that progress may prove enduring.
China - Korea
The PRC and Republic of Korea celebrated a decade of normal relations on Aug. 24, with mutual commemorative events and academic workshops. There is much to celebrate. Bilateral trade has grown from $3 billion in 1991 to over $30 billion in 2001 and social, cultural, and political ties have grown robustly: dramatic evidence of how the end of the Cold War has allowed the development of new relationships in Northeast Asia. However, the gathering dark clouds posed by the North Korean refugee issue, illegal drug imports, migrant workers, "yellow dust," and occasional squalls driven by China's direct challenge to Korea's global economic competitiveness are now being directly felt. It is time to post a warning to South Korea of impending damage from a Chinese economic typhoon that could be at least as unsettling to the economic and political landscape Asia as Typhoon Rusa, the worst typhoon to hit the Korean Peninsula in four decades.
Japan - China
The quarter ended on a high note with ceremonies in Beijing commemorating the 30th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Japan and China. Senior Foreign Ministry officials and over 50 political figures represented Japan. Conspicuously absent, however, was the prime minister. Over the course of the summer the past continued to intrude on the present. A Tokyo District Court was the first to rule that Japan had engaged in biological warfare in China during the war. The court, however, rejected the Chinese plaintiffs suit for compensation. Visits by members of the Koizumi Cabinet to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15 drew traditional censure from Beijing. Japanese concerns with China's on-going military modernization and its perceived lack of gratitude for Japan's development assistance foreshadowed a looming debate over future official development assistance. Nevertheless, commerce continued to expand as joint ventures multiplied, and Japanese investment continued to flow into China.
Japan - Korea
The big news for the quarter was Prime Minister Koizumi's meeting with DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il on Sept. 17. The discussions were described by officials as "frank talks" on difficult issues of concern. In pre-summit negotiations, the Japanese established up front that they wanted a satisfactory and definitive accounting on the unresolved claim of past abducted Japanese nationals. Tokyo also wanted the North to address security issues (including missiles, the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the North-South Basic Agreement), and moreover maintained that there would be no explicit in-kind compensation by Japan for this meeting. Koizumi's trip added to a regional momentum toward engagement, encouraging even the Bush skeptics to see whether, this time, there is really any substance behind the warm wind blowing from Pyongyang.
China - Russia
Two one-year anniversaries - the Russia-China friendship treaty and the Sept. 11 attacks - were very much in the minds of Russian and Chinese leaders during the third quarter. Both China and Russia publicly expressed satisfaction with the historic treaty that "legalizes" bilateral interactions. Beyond that, Russian President Putin's Bismarckian diplomatic dexterity seemed to make Russia not only an eagerly sought member within the major power club, but also to position it in a crucial point between the West and the so-called "axis of evil" states. Meanwhile, China's strategic and diplomatic constraints were somewhat alleviated by its sustained economic growth. Between China and Russia, the much alluded to friendship treaty appeared only to offer another round of strategic maneuvering and mutual adjustment at the dawn of a new U.S. military doctrine of preemption that would displace deterrence.