Regional Impulses in Northeast Asia

Staff: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
November 14, 2007 - January 14, 2010

Last Updated: January 14, 2010

The CFR Northeast Asia Security Architecture project began in 2007 as a track-two dialogue among Japanese, South Korean, Chinese and U.S. experts on Northeast Asian regionalism. Workshops were held across the region, first in Tokyo, then in Washington, DC, Seoul, and Beijing. Our expert team engaged important foreign policymakers in each government on the prospects for success in the Six Party Talks, as well as on the question of how best to organize an agenda for security cooperation in Northeast Asia.

The effort to denuclearize North Korea, while deeply troubling as a model for future security collaboration, did offer the opportunity to learn how this problem-solving approach to regional cooperation affected relationships across the region. Using the “lessons learned” thread in our observations of the ongoing Six Party Talks, we gained insights into the residual dynamics of competition and insecurity in the region. But we also saw where the opportunities were. Moreover, elections in South Korea, the United States, and Japan brought home to all of us the need for greater analytical attention to the domestic factors that shape each country’s approach to regional cooperation in Northeast Asia.

The Northeast Asia Security Architecture workshops and the papers below offer the U.S. policy community a window into the rapidly expanding opportunities for Washington to engage more forcefully and more deeply in the effort to build relationships designed to address shared challenges. For too long, the U.S. debate over regional architecture in Asia-Pacific has focused on U.S. interests, and has not taken into account the energy and focus of creating more effective regional institutions and agendas among Asian countries. Moreover, this project also offered the opportunity to focus specifically on the prospects for security cooperation in Northeast Asia—a subregion with diplomatic challenges that many argue are just too complex and daunting to overcome.

But as the papers below will reveal, there is an energized effort to strengthen regional cooperation across a variety of issue areas and via a sophisticated array of conversations. Northeast Asia remains a difficult environment, but the diplomatic engagement of its residents is rapidly expanding. As our participants from Japan, South Korea, China, and the United States point out, the place regionalism occupies in national foreign policy agendas varies, as do the avenues preferred for cooperation. The six-party process remains vital to a regional discussion of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, but initiatives such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three summits offer a complement and a new opportunity for the countries of Northeast Asia to craft their own brand of regionalism.

New Impulses for Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia

By Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

To find out more about the workshops, please click here.


Expert Essays:

Northeast Asian Regionalism in Korea

By Kim Sung-han, professor, Graduate School of International Studies, Korea University

Perceptions of Inherited Histories and Other Discussion Relating to East Asian Cooperative Security

By Shi Yinhong, director, Center on American Studies, Renmin University of China

Northeast Asian Regionalism: A (Possible) Means to an End for Washington

By Ralph A. Cossa, president, Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies

Japan’s Foreign Policy and East Asian Regionalism

By Hitoshi Tanaka,  senior fellow, Japan Center for International Exchange, and Adam P. Liff, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Politics, Princeton University

U.S. Domestic Politics and Multilateral Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia

By Scott Snyder, director, Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, Asia Foundation

Japanese Domestic Politics and Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia

By Yoshihide Soeya, director, Institute of East Asian Studies, Keio University

Chinese Nationalism and Approaches toward East Asian Regional Cooperation

By Suisheng Zhao, director, Center for China-U.S. Cooperation, University of Denver

The Nexus between Korea’s Regional Security Options and Domestic Politics

By Geun Lee, associate professor of international relations, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University

This project has been made possible by grants from the Robina Foundation, the United States-Japan Foundation, and the Korea Foundation, and by support from CFR's program on International Institutions and Global Governance. CFR‘s Japan programs are made possible in part by the generosity of the following corporate sponsors: Canon USA, Mitsui & Company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Mitsubishi International Corporation, Sony Corporation of America, and Toyota Motor North America.