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Asian Perspective 40 (2016), 363-368 Introduction to the Special Issue Hyun-Gwi Park This special issue is devoted to the Tumen River (Duman-gang in Korean, Tumangan or Tumannaia reka in Russian, Tumenjiang in Chinese) and focuses particularly on the section of the river that serves as the border for China, Russia, and North Korea. This seventeen-kilometer section ofthe eastern end ofthe Tumen River is a relatively short distance considering that the total length of the river is 521 kilometers. However, it has great geoeconomic and geopolitical importance due to its function not only as a tri­ lateral border between China, North Korea, and Russia but also as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean (see Figure 1). The importance of this borderland has been growing in recent years due to remarkable changes in the domestic development pol­ icy of each riparian country and also as a result of transformations in international relations in the region and beyond. Since the mid2000s , each country has been carrying out ambitious economic projects to develop its peripheries: China’s Northeast Development Plan (since 2007); the Russian Federation’s East Siberian and Far East Social-Economic Development Program (from 2008 to 2013), and the newly formulated 2025 Social-Economic Development State Program for the Far Eastern and East Siberian Region; and North Korea’s Rajin-Sonbong (Rason) Special Economic Zone. At the same time significant changes have occurred in North Korea’s relations with both China and Russia. Pyongyang has dis­ tanced itselffrom China and pursued closer cooperation with Russia in a balancing act reminiscent of its posturing to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet split during the Cold War period (Armstrong 2013). Furthermore, the Ukrainian crisis on its Euro-Atlantic frontier has forced Russia to more actively engage with its Asia Pacific frontier and East Asian neighbors. Reflecting these changes, “a huge energy deal” signed between Russia and China in Shanghai in May 2014 ended more than a decade ofnegotiations and haggling over terms 363 364 Introduction to the Special Issue Figure 1 The Tumen River Area in Northeast Asia Changchun • Jilin •Mudanjian Suifenbe' Vladivostok Nakhodks Pyongyang^stQsan Sea of Japan/ East Sea Source:, and conditions for energy trading between the two countries (Anishchuk 2014). Thus, the importance of the Tumen River for Russia will con­ tinue to increase: it presents one of the last viable options for Russia to pursue its ambition to regain equivalent power status with the United States in the Asia Pacific region and to obtain access to alternative energy markets in East Asia. Similarly, the Tumen River has become increasingly important to China in its aim of securing a port with access to the East Sea/Sea of Japan Hyun-Gwi Park 365 that would provide a gateway to the shorter northern Arctic route to Europe and the Pacific Ocean, giving China more options to connect to the Asia Pacific economic sphere. Despite the increasing geopolitical and economic significance of this border area, research is markedly lacking that addresses current issues in this region. Most research has concentrated on the situation in the 1990s and early 2000s when the Tumen River Area Development Project was launched but subsequently delayed. While keeping in mind the importance of this earlier period of development, this special issue focuses on changes that have taken place since the mid-2000s (especially the articles by Green and Vaschuk and Konyakhina). We aim to provide a unique analytical window on multiple facets of this area as a borderland, based on empirically grounded approaches and historical perspectives. Given that the Tumen triangle area is located on the geograph­ ical periphery of three countries but at the same time serves as the meeting point for the frontiers of each riparian nation-state, we take into account the multiple dimensions of the area from a compara­ tive and interdisciplinary perspective. This would not be possible based purely on individual research. The special issue developed from a workshop held in Cambridge, England, in May 2014, where we showcased the first systematic approach and in-depth analysis ofdevelopment in the region. In particular, we highlight the dialec­ tical...


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