Characteristics of Northeast Asia Formulation of a regional network
6 月 03

In East Asia, nations that used to have an adversarial relationship due to ideological differences have created a forum to discuss economic, political and security issues. Such a framework, however, has not yet been established in Northeast Asia. As we have seen through ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, ASEAN-PMC and ARF, the momentum for multilateral cooperation is gaining not only among Asian nations, but also in Europe and South America. These multilateral partnerships have been formulated mainly in Southeast Asia, and the momentum for regional cooperation is still at its initial stage in Northeast Asia.

It is worth noting that the cooperation among ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea (ASEAN+3) is getting stronger. Since the ten member states of ASEAN alone have limited resources for economic development, the partnerships with Japan, China and South Korea have great significance.

From this point of view, it is possible to draw a rough sketch that Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN members) and Northeast Asian countries can begin their cooperation with Japan, China and South Korea as the focal points. In other words, a collaborative relationship whereby ASEAN+3 can benefit North Korea, Mongolia and Far East Russia seems to be called for.

Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific
ASEAN: International organization established by 10 nations in Southeast Asia to accelerate economic growth, social progress, and cultural development and to solve various problems of the region.
APEC: Trade group established to promote mutual awareness of trade and investment, regional trade, liberalization and expansion of investment and to build a consensus concerning elimination of obstacles to free trade.
ASEM: Forum founded to promote cooperation between Asia and Europe, which has been relatively weak in the triangular relationship between Asia, Europe and the United States.
ASEAN-PMC: Annual ministerial conference of ASEAN members, concerned nations and organizations.
ARF: The only inter-governmental forum to discuss security issues of the Asia-Pacific. This forum has adopted a gradual evolutionary approach with three stages: promotion of confidence-building measures, development of preventive diplomacy mechanisms, and development of conflict-resolution mechanisms.

Expansion of economic bloc

The economic development of the Asia-Pacific up to the 1980s resembled a flight of wild geese, with Japan at the apex. This pattern, however, is now becoming a thing of the past. South Korea has joined the OECD, the group of developed nations, and Singapore and Hong Kong now equal the highest industrial competitiveness in the world. In addition, the GDP of China now surpasses that of Canada, one of the G7 members, and is approaching those of Italy and the UK.

It is a distinctive trend in the Asia-Pacific that several economic blocs have arisen spontaneously during the region’s economic development. The South China Economic Bloc has been formulated across Hong Kong, Guangdong, Taiwan and Fujian. The Yellow Sea Economic Bloc is coming into existence between Shandong and North Korea, and the Baht Economic Bloc is gradually unfolding in Indochina. In the 20th century, the economic development of individual nations was stressed; in the 21st century, however, we can safely assert, even disregarding the formation of the EU, that economic integration beyond national borders seems to have become a general trend. Professor Robert Scalapino at the University of California, for example, has pointed out that Northeast Asia has the potential to develop as a single economic bloc.

The notion of a free trade agreement (FTA), which originated in North America, can be considered key to liberating an economy from national boundaries, and the trend has already spread to the Asia-Pacific. The ten member states of ASEAN have already formed the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) to establish a free trade region. China has opened up a dialogue with ASEAN concerning its participation in AFTA, while a bilateral free trade agreement between Japan and Singapore took effect in January 2002. Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand have worked out the framework for a free trade region that would include Papua New Guinea and East Timor. As described above, we can see movements that weaken economic boundaries in various regions and it is no longer possible to stop such trends. Hence, it is reasonable to expect that an economic bloc can be formulated in Northeast Asia.

It is not difficult to imagine that in the future an East Asia economic bloc could develop incorporating a Northeast Asia Economic Bloc (Japan, South and North Korea, three provinces of Northeast China, Far East Russia and Mongolia), ASEAN, and the other parts of China. Working closely with the Pacific Rim Economic Bloc, these economic blocs can become an “open economic bloc” and gain importance as the global economic bloc as they forge close ties with the EU and NAFTA

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