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THE UNITED STATES, JAPAN,. AND THE EMERGING EAST ASIAN ORDER Nathaniel B. Thayer he nations of East Asia and North America have come to constitute a new international order. At the core of this order are Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Pacific ministates, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, and the two city-states of Singapore and Hong Kong. Because the nations are so varied, however, identification among them is weak and regional cooperation suffers. At the periphery of this order are the Asian Socialist states of the People's Republic of China (prc), North Korea, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam, which includes Laos and Kampuchea. Relations among these states are dominated, for the most part, by balance-ofpower considerations, and their relations with the core states of the East Asian international order have been adversarial, although this is beginning to change. Most core states have established at least informal relations with China and the Soviet Union; for instance, Thailand uses its ties with China to contain Vietnam, and South Korea has considered outflanking North Korea by offering support to the Soviet Union in developing Siberia. Even though the security relations in East Asia are far from resolved, and balance-of-power considerations still very much in evidence, security systems have not emerged as a principal concern for these nations, which, for the most part, have been content to fend for themselves or, at best, to enter into bilateral security treaties. These arrangements have sufficed. In fact, they have failed to protect the parties involved on only one occasion, when the Chinese invaded Vietnam, which had signed a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. Nathaniel B. Thayer is associate professor and director of Asian studies at SAIS, and author of How the Conservatives Rule Japan. 1 2 SAIS REVIEW The principal concern of the East Asian order is economic cooperation , the dynamics of which I shall describe in greater detail later on in this study. World War II brought an end to the East Asian empires. Japan was forced to retreat to its four home islands, and the European metropolitan powers tried to reassert their authority, but found they could not sustain it. New nations emerged. Their borders are firm, although some irredentist claims persist. Each nation has a functioning government, although their legitimacy is often questioned and succession problems frequently arise. In most cases, the sense of national identity among the East Asian nations is strong enough to override communal, religious, ethnic, and regional differences. In short, each nation is "nation" enough so that none of the others challenges its right to exist, with the exceptions, perhaps, of Laos and Kampuchea. Stage two—the building of an interstate system—is under way. Taiwan is an anomaly in this system, primarily because the United States and Japan have broken off formal ties. Nevertheless, each of the core nations maintains economic ties with Taiwan; the United States, Indonesia , Malaysia, and Singapore maintain security ties. The degree of economic development varies immensely among the nations involved in this international order. The United States, Japan, and Australia are advanced countries; South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are newly industrialized; and Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia are developing nations. The core states, in addition, vary a great deal in terms of size. Australia is a continent; the United States and China comprise large portions of continents; and Indonesia is an island-empire covering an area about the size of the United States. By way of contrast, the region includes two city-states and six component states that have organized the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean) to give them the needed clout to deal with the other, larger states. Natural resources are distributed unevenly. Japan and South Korea, for example, have to import most of their food and energy, while Australia and the asean states have an abundance of resources. The political differences in the region are staggering. Governments range from parliamentary democracies to monarchies to juntas to a dynastic Socialist state. Some nations are multiracial, others are homogenous . They comprise cultures and societies rooted in four major religious and ethical systems: Islam (Indonesia and Malaysia); Christianity (Philippines ); Buddhism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 1-14
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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