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13 Changes in Northeast Asian Geopolitics Yukio Satoh Yukio Satoh is President of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. He was Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations up to August 2002, and prior to this was the Ambassador of Japan to the Netherlands (1994–96) and to Australia (1996–98). [This page intentionally left blank.] 15 satoh Paradigm Shift? N orth Korea’s nuclear test has produced policy cohesion among the five major players of Northeast Asian geopolitics: the United Stated, Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia. Symbolically, China, South Korea, and Russia, which were hitherto reluctant to apply apparent pressure on Pyongyang, have come to join the United Sates and Japan in applying non-military sanctions to North Korea. Yet the interests and stakes held by the countries concerned in North Korea vary so widely and Pyongyang’s policy conduct is so unpredictable that it is too early to be optimistic about the future. It is indeed encouraging that China has become more than ever proactive on the issue. Chinese pressure on North Korea, however, is bound to be carefully measured, for Beijing wishes to avert the influx of refugees across the border and, more importantly, China itself has serious domestic problems to worry about. Despite the country’s mesmerizing economic growth, income disparities and development gaps are already adding to social disturbances and local instabilities. Persisting with his “engagement policy” toward North Korea, President Roh MuHyun of South Korea continues economic cooperation in the form of tourism to Mount Kumgang and the Kaisong industrial zone project. Diplomatically, South Korea seems to be trying to find its own position somewhere between China on one side and the U.S.-Japan alliance on the other. The Bush administration remains reluctant to engage in direct dialogues with North Korea outside the Six-Party Talks. Moreover, it appears to be difficult for the United States to take a bold policy initiative to North Korea, as Washington not only is increasingly troubled by the Iraqi quagmire and faced with the Iranian nuclear problem but also is entering the political years of presidential campaign. Negotiations to normalize relations between Japan and North Korea have been suspended, largely because Pyongyang refuses to address the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals. The resolution of the issue is, for Tokyo, a precondition for normalization, which would entail Japanese economic cooperation with North Korea. Given all these factors, it is plausible to assume that a set of diplomatic gridlocks will remain in place, with the increasing danger of North Korea becoming even more defiant and violent. The sanctions could have debilitating impact on the reclusive regime should they be sustained in a concerted manner. How Pyongyang would react to the increased difficulties, however, is unpredictable. nbr analysis 16 The Increased Importance of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will remain the key for the success of the diplomatic efforts to ensure a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The significance of the treaty would increase further if South Korea would continue to seek a more self-reliant defense posture. For Japan, missile tests by Pyongyang have confirmed anew the relevance of the Treaty. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that defending South Korea rather than Japan would be a more conceivable contingency for the Japan-U.S. security arrangements. The deployment by the United States of Aegis destroyers and PAC-3 missile defense systems to Japan is reassuring in this context. Reassuring as well is Washington’s firm commitment to provide Japan with extended nuclear deterrence. The commitment makes it possible for Japan to maintain the so-called Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not possessing, not producing, and not permitting entry into Japan of nuclear weapons. Although the North Korean nuclear test has among some conservative circles in Japan aroused an argument that discussing the rationale for the non-nuclear policy would be advisable, few such advocates argue for departure from the Three NonNuclear Principles. Most Japanese are categorically opposed to possession of nuclear weapons. It is evident that independent nuclear deterrence is not an optimal strategy for a country like Japan, which geographically lacks the so-called strategic depth. Japan does not need nuclear weapons for the purpose of attaining recognition in international politics. On the contrary, an attempt to possess nuclear weapons, which would be costly for Japan politically as well as economically, would be almost tantamount to opting for isolation. More fundamentally, the Japanese people...


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