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[ 25 ] roundtable • pursuing security in a dynamic northeast asia The State of International Relations in Northeast Asia Robert A. Scalapino Northeast Asia is perhaps the most critical region in the world today, both in economic and in political-security terms. Here, three major nations—China, Japan, and Russia—are neighbors existing in close proximity to each other, and a fourth, the United States, while not a geographic part of the region, is deeply involved in every aspect of its activities. At the outset, one must note the striking paradox between economic and political-strategic relations. Economically, the region is closely interwoven, with economic boundaries porous, regional trade and investment steadily growing, and economic barriers being progressively reduced. Northeast Asia is what I have termed a Natural Economic Territory (NET), with intertwined resource requirements and availability, diverse stages of development promoting a fruitful interaction between needs and capacities, and a rising consumer market throughout the region. In contrast, despite recent efforts by Prime Minister Abe to improve relations with neighbors, differences and tensions remain on the political and strategic fronts, especially between Japan and others. Moreover, U.S. relations with both China and Russia, while on balance favorable, are marked by complexity. In addition, the issues of North Korea and Taiwan further complicate the picture. Thus, at this point, the region is far from having the capacity to achieve an effective multilateral structure that might deal with the broad issues relating to peace and development. Let us look more closely at the details, beginning with the economic picture. At present, Sino-Japanese trade exceeds $200 billion per annum, with China now Japan’s leading trade partner. Japan’s investment in China has also expanded rapidly. Of equal importance, South Korea is extensively integrated into the Northeast Asian economic network. ROK trade with China and Japan in 2005 reached nearly $200 billion, with China surpassing the United States as South Korea’s leading economic partner. Russia has reentered the Northeast Asian economic scene as a major player only recently. Earlier, the Russian economy encountered serious difficulties, having moved to privatization too rapidly after the collapse of Robert A. Scalapino is the Robson Research Professor Emeritus of Government and taught for more than forty years at the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Political Science. He has published extensively on Asian politics and U.S.-Asia policy, and is the founder and first chairman of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He is also founder of the University of California–Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Asia Foundation. He is available at . [ 26 ] asia policy the Soviet Union, with economic oligarchs and massive corruption ensuing. The Russian economy, however, is now advancing with a GDP growth of some 6% per annum, and Sino-Russian trade has reached nearly $30 billion yearly, with a goal of $60–80 billion by 2010. Energy constitutes much of the Russian exports to China, and a pipeline agreement has now been concluded that should produce long-term benefit to both sides. An additional pipeline in Eastern Siberia, leading to Nakhodka, thence by sea to Japan, has also been under lengthy discussion, but with no agreement as of now. By taking advantage of the vast oil and gas resources in Siberia, however, Russia will increasingly become a major economic actor in the region. Meanwhile the United States is and will remain a crucial economic force for Northeast Asia, with the country’s economic future of major importance. Issues with China such as the trade imbalance and yuan evaluation are troubling, but on balance trade and investment—including major Chinese purchases of U.S. security bonds—are vital to both nations, and trends in the American economy also directly affect Japan and South Korea. Positive Northeast Asian intercourse has cultural as well as economic dimensions. The number of the region’s students studying in a neighboring nation has greatly increased in recent years. According to one account, some 80,000 Chinese students were attending schools in Japan in 2005. Cultural intercourse in such fields as art, drama, and literature has also accelerated, especially since the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
pp. 25-28
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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