Volume 8, Number 3, October 2006
Full Issue (PDF, 191 pages, 1.1 MB)
Regional Overview: Déjà Vu All Over Again with North Korea (PDF, 18 pages, 197 KB) by Ralph A. Cossa, Pacific Forum CSIS, and Brad Glosserman, Pacific Forum CSIS
The last quarter ended with the international community playing “will they, or won’t they” over North Korea’s threatened missile test; they did! This quarter it’s déjà vu all over again, this time concerning a threatened nuclear weapons test. The UN Security Council’s surprisingly tough response to the missile tests did not help jump-start the negotiation process. At the ARF, North Korea’s foreign minister refused to come to an “informal” six-party meeting, despite a chance to meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ASEAN foreign ministers also held their 39th annual Ministerial and numerous 10+1 post-ministerial talks (including a productive session with Secretary Rice), along with an ASEAN Plus Three meeting. Meanwhile, the democratic process continued to witness ups and (mostly) downs in Asia, as the military coup in Thailand reminds us of just how fragile the democratic process remains in Asia.
U.S.-Japan Relations: Enter Abe Stage Right (PDF, 10 pages, 106 KB) by Michael J. Green, CSIS, and Shinjiro Koizumi, CSIS
The key theme for the third quarter of 2006 has been the transition of power from Koizumi Junichiro to Abe Shinzo. North Korea’s July test-launch of seven missiles gave Abe a chance to display his leadership credentials, setting the stage for a continued strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Koizumi’s Aug. 15 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine raised questions and criticism in some corners in Washington about how ideological an Abe government might become, but the Koizumi visit may also have bought Abe time to decide how to handle relations with China. Abe’s first steps as prime minister will determine whether he will be seen as a pragmatic and strategic leader or – as his critics charge – a young and inexperienced nationalist.
U.S.-China Relations: Promoting Cooperation, Managing Friction (PDF, 14 pages, 152 KB) by Bonnie S. Glaser, CSIS/Pacific Forum CSIS
Attention focused on economic issues this quarter with visits to China by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who launched a new U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue. Bilateral military ties took a step forward with a visit to the U.S. by Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Guo Boxiong and the first ever U.S.-China joint naval exercise. Bush administration officials took China to task for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction materials and technology due to lax enforcement of export control laws. North Korea, Iran, and Sudan dominated the security agenda. The second round of the China-U.S. Global Issues Forum was held in Beijing. Bilateral space cooperation was initiated with a visit to China by a delegation led by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.
U.S.-Korea Relations: North Korea Rolls the Dice and Conducts Missile Tests (PDF, 12 pages, 137 KB) by Donald G. Gross, The Atlantic Council of the United States
The UN Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea in mid-July for test launching seven missiles earlier in the month. Following the Sept. 14 Bush-Roh summit meeting, the U.S. showed some procedural flexibility in the nuclear negotiations, for the first time in months. President Bush gave his blessing at the summit to President Roh’s request for returning operational command of South Korea’s forces during wartime to Seoul. In two rounds of negotiations this quarter on a U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, U.S. and South Korean trade negotiators put a number of critical issues in manufacturing, services and agriculture on the table but were only able to reach an apparent agreement on pharmaceuticals.
U.S.-Russia Relations: Energy and Strategy (PDF, 8 pages, 92 KB) by Joseph Ferguson, National Council for Eurasian and East European Research
Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin met amiably at the G-8 Summit, which Russia hosted this year. But as the quarter wound down, familiar themes of distrust and misunderstanding pervaded the relationship again. It is not that Moscow and Washington have strategic interests that are directly opposed to one another; leaders in both capitals see eye-to-eye on the pressing issues of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and on more long-term goals, such as managing a peaceful rise of China. The problems seem to lie more in the tactics of achieving these strategic aims. Russian leaders have a hard time conceding global leadership to Washington; many in the United States still harbor engrained prejudices against the longtime adversary in Moscow. Additionally, energy issues have become more and more the cause for disagreement between Russia and its neighbors and partners.
U.S.-Southeast Asia Relations: U.S. Strengthens Ties to Southeast Asian Regionalism (PDF, 12 pages, 132 KB) by Sheldon W. Simon, Arizona State University
Washington signed a trade and investment framework agreement with ASEAN at July ministerial meetings and is considering appointment of an ambassador to ASEAN as well as creating a new Southeast Asian financial post in the Treasury Department. On the military dimension, the U.S. is delivering spare parts for the Indonesian air force and has a new defense arrangement with the Philippines that will focus on humanitarian aid, civic engagement, and counterterrorism training in insurgent-ridden Mindanao. Washington also placed Burma’s human rights violations on the UN Security Council agenda and enhanced economic and military relations with Vietnam. In response to the Sept. 19 Thai coup, the U.S. expressed disappointment in the setback to democracy by an important regional ally but did not insist that deposed Prime Minister Thaksin be restored to power.
China-Southeast Asia Relations: Chinese Diplomacy and Optimism about ASEAN (PDF, 12 pages, 126 KB) by Robert Sutter, Georgetown University, and Chin-Hao Huang, CSIS
Chinese diplomacy this quarter focused on the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in July in which China played an important role regarding North Korea, Myanmar, and Japan. Chinese officials remain optimistic about Chinese-ASEAN relations as they celebrate the 15th anniversary of the China-ASEAN dialogue partnership. They reacted moderately to the military coup in Thailand, though they voiced strong objections to a U.S.-supported vote by the UN Security Council in September to have the Council examine the situation in Myanmar. There was little evidence of any change in China’s policy toward the region as a result of a work conference on Chinese foreign policy in Beijing. Official Chinese reports on the conference appeared to support existing Chinese foreign policy priorities.
China-Taiwan Relations: More Small Steps (PDF, 10 pages, 111 KB) by David G. Brown, The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Corruption scandals and street protests calling for President Chen’s resignation have paralyzed policy making in Taipei. Beijing is concerned over President Chen’s playing the constitutional reform card to counter the campaign. Nevertheless, Taipei and Beijing undertook more small steps to ease restrictions on cross-Strait contacts. Beijing also continued active exchanges with the Kuomintang (KMT) opposition. Significant changes in Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) personnel were announced, and the changes were viewed positively in Taipei. The PRC continued to outmaneuver Taiwan in the international arena, but at home Chen pushed his campaign for a stronger Taiwanese identity. The visit to Taipei of a Japanese vice minister of agriculture symbolized the increased contacts between Tokyo and Taipei. With the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) set to release proposals on constitutional reform, that issue is likely to reemerge as a source of cross-Strait tension.
North Korea-South Korea Relations: Sunset for Sunshine (PDF, 16 pages, 164 KB) by Aidan Foster-Carter, Leeds University, UK
The third quarter began with and was dominated by the seven missiles that North Korea test-fired July 5. This rude gesture cast a large shadow on Seoul’s “Sunshine” policy. July’s missile launch had put most of the dense network of official inter-Korean contacts on ice for late summer and early fall. Seoul struggled to strike a balance between showing disapproval – thus keeping the semblance of a common front with Washington – and seeking to ensure that the overall achievements of Sunshine were not jeopardized. It is too early to tell whether this was just a temporary hiccup, or marked a lasting change in the balance and thrust of the ROK’s Nordpolitik. For reasons hard to fathom, Kim Jong-il chose to settle that question in the negative with an underground nuclear test Oct. 9.
China-Korea Relations: Unrestrained Defiance (PDF, 10 pages, 115 KB) by Scott Snyder, The Asia Foundation/Pacific Forum CSIS
To the surprise of many, China signed the strongly worded UNSCR 1695 that condemned the North Korea’s July 5 missile tests. This followed the failure of diplomatic efforts to convince North Korea to exercise restraint and return to the negotiating table. PRC Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met with his ROK counterpart Ban Ki-moon several times during the quarter to discuss North Korea, and Roh Moo-hyun placed a rare phone call in late July to Hu Jintao, who counseled patience and restraint. Rumors of North Korean plans for a nuclear test were given credence by the North Koreans in an official statement Oct. 3. Union leaders from ailing Ssangyong Motors launched a general strike against Chinese management at Shanghai Automotive Corporation, while China’s attempts to restrain its booming economy reverberated in the form of slower growth of Korean exports to China.
Japan-China Relations: Searching for a Summit (PDF, 16 pages, 175 KB) by James J. Przystup, Institute for National Strategic Studies, NDU
Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro visited Yasukuni on Aug. 15, honoring a long-standing campaign pledge. China protested the visit and moved on, focusing its attention on Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzo, odds-on favorite to succeed Koizumi as Liberal Democratic Party president and Japan’s prime minister. Abe took the reins of the LDP Sept. 20 and control of the government Sept. 26. China welcomed Abe with the same words it welcomed Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian: it would listen to what he says and watch what he does. Even before taking office, Abe made clear his interest in finding a path to a summit meeting with China. As the fourth quarter begins, Japanese and Chinese diplomats are exploring various paths to a summit.
Japan-Korea Relations: Missiles and Prime Ministers May Mark a Turning Point (PDF, 12 pages, 122 KB) by David C. Kang, Dartmouth College, and Ji-Young Lee Georgetown University
North Korea’s missile launches in July and the election of Abe Shinzo as Japanese prime minister in September may have marked the beginning of a new chapter in Northeast Asian regional relations. Both events are widely seen to presage possibilities in the region. The missile launches marked the escalation of the North Korean issue to new heights, prompting a stern response even from countries such as China and South Korea. How Japan under Abe might deal with both North and South Korea has been the source of tremendous speculation; it remains to be seen how and in what manner Abe’s foreign policy will develop. Even as Tokyo and Seoul were haggling over territorial claims, Pyongyang’s missile tests, and Yasukuni, economic relations continued to deepen.
China-Russia Relations: G-8, Geoeconomics, and Growing “Talk” Fatigue (PDF, 10 pages, 113 KB) by Yu Bin, Wittenberg University
While top leaders socialized at summits (G-8 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization prime ministerial meeting), Russian and Chinese diplomats were in overdrive to deal with North Korea and Iran. The position of Beijing and Moscow has eroded because of the stalemate in the two nuclear talks. Bilateral interactions between Beijing and Moscow proceeded at full speed, as more than 200 events at both the elite and popular levels unfolded across China and Russia. Talks of a joint mission to Mars were also heard. And the oil pipeline from Eastern Siberia to the Pacific Ocean is reportedly being built at a fast tempo. However, by quarter’s end, the two sides decided to shorten the term of bilateral visa-free visits from 30 to 15 days to prevent trips from being “used for wrong purposes.”
Japan-Southeast Asia Relations: Playing Catch-up with China (PDF, 14 pages, 155 KB) by Bronson Percival, The CNA Corporation
China is replacing Japan as the most influential Asian state in Southeast Asia. Japan now often trails in China’s wake. Tokyo has not been blind to Beijing’s sophisticated campaign to increase China’s influence in this region, but its response thus far has been too little, too late. Traditional issues such as investment, trade, and aid continue to dominate Japan-Southeast Asia bilateral relations. For Japan, these economic issues are managed, often on autopilot, by individual Japanese government ministries. There are few contentious issues in the Japan-Southeast Asia relationships and Japan retains a massive economic stake in the region. Tokyo is well positioned to exert greater influence if and when it puts its own house in order.
About the Contributors (PDF, 5 pages, 69 KB)