2017.4 Momentum for regional cooperation
5 月 03

Northeast Asia consists of four nations and two regions: Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Japan and the northeastern part of China and Russian Far East. Probably Taiwan should be included. The population of Northeast Asia is about 300 million. The size of Northeast Asia is like the United States.

This area has economic complementarities. Russian Far East has abundant natural resources; Mongolia and probably North Korea have natural resources. China and North Korea have capable labor forces. Japan and South Korea have capital and technology. Once we combine these elements, it is possible to create a natural economic territory or economic sphere in Northeast Asia.

In the last 120 years, there were five major wars here starting in 1895 — the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Second World War, the Korean War and the Cold War.

We have a huge gap here, including economic or political or social differences — communism, state-capitalism or capitalism. The economic gap between Japan and Mongolia is one hundred times. Also we have different understandings of history. There exist psychological gaps in this region.

Change in international situations

In Northeast Asia, the only place where the Cold War structure remains, EU countries as well as major nations, including the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have deepening concerns about the situation of North Korea. North Korea, recognized as part of the “axis of evil” by the Bush administration, has been strengthening exchanges with the international society, while maintaining the very exclusive dictatorship.

It is especially notable that North Korea, South Korea, Russia and China began taking actions to restore the railroad that connects the borders of North and South Korea, China and North Korea, and North Korea and Russia.

In addition, a movement of multilateral cooperation for regional alliances has been emerging in North Korea leading it to become a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

In regards to the problem of abduction that is considered as the entrance of normalization of diplomatic relations, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002 and North Korea admitted the abduction of Japanese people, resulting in possible normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea as well as economic cooperation for North Korea.

Looking over the “light” part of North Korea’s “light and shadow” in this way finds that North Korea is rapidly approaching to the international society. Economic decline in North Korea is affecting its pursuit of external contact in the background. Rationing of rice, etc., has been terminated since July 2002, and movements for market-oriented economic reform has been observed. Although Kim Jong-il’s structure appears to be stable from the political viewpoint, it is not able to maintain the traditional system from the economic viewpoint, and it is noteworthy how it handles such challenges as sudden rise in prices. Furthermore, in regards to chronic shortage of energy and food, it is difficult to satisfy demand without external support.

Considering these situations, the optimistic prediction that North Korea might gradually merge into the international society had been made, just as the smooth termination of the Cold War between the East and the West due to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

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