IPCS Discussion

China, Japan & South Korea: Emerging Security Architecture in East Asia

12 Aug, 2013    ·   4084

Shresht Jain reports on the discussion held on the same

Shresht Jain
Shresht Jain
Research Intern

Session-I: Park's Visit to Beijing and China-South Korea Relations

Dr. Sandip Mishra 

In her recent visit to China, South Korean President Park Geun-hyu emphasised the pivotal role of China in determining the security and economic architecture of Northeast Asia and her visit was an apparently successful attempt to connect with China in a varied field of activities. This issue is important because there is a very important churning happening in East Asia and that is reflected in President Park visit to China last month. The future of this churning is uncertain, but at the same time it is a very important beginning and we need to be careful about this beginning.

South Korean policy under Park Geun-hyu by far has been successful overall. Because the most important issue of denuclearising North Korea was discussed in detail. The North Korean movements after the Park’s visit were uncomfortable. They sent several delegations to Beijing, but Chinese seem to be more convinced by the Southern Counterpart (South Korea).

There are three identified objectives from a South Korea point of view to visit China: first is to put pressure on North Korea; second important objective is to reach out China vis-à-vis regional security architecture; thirdly to realize bilateral economic cooperation between China and South Korea.

Now, does this mean that Park’s visit to China has fundamentally changed China’s position? 

Preferably, it would be premature to say that this shift is fundamental or irreversible. Actually, both the countries are looking at new possibilities, but at the same time have different expectations. South Korea expects to push North Korean by bringing in China and the US on the board, whereas China would not abandon its close ally as long as South Korea’s close alliance is not dissolved.  Overall, the issue becomes much more complex, if you look at the dialogues and the engagement from both the sides. South Korea as earlier mentioned wants both China and the US. China is trying to look at the possibilities of creating a distance between the US and South Korea, US is trying to create a ‘hub and spoke’ model. Whereas, China is also trying to create a ‘hub and spoke model’ where locus would be on the region and China would act as a hub. China is also keenly watching growing distance between Korean and Japan.

There are two important observations- first, how South Korea will effectively engage both China and the US? Second, the dilemma in which South Korea will have to choose between China and the US to resolve NK nuclear dilemma. Similarly for China it had become too costly, North Korean escalation brought Americans back into regional theatre. China is not worried about North Korean Nuclear program per se but, it would lead to South Korea or Japan going Nuclear. If you look at the role of the US, they are concerned about NK nuclear program. They don’t want to detach their North Korean policy from their Asia Pivot policy.

To conclude, this visit is important because it initiated a different kind of security architecture, which may change bilateral relation between regional parties. It will be premature to call this process an ambitious one. But clearly, it is going to be difficult. It is going to be complex. 

Amb. Skand Tayal 

To look at the present it would be useful to look at the past. Korea in the past has been under the influence of the Chinese political, spiritual and intellectual shadow. Till 1945 South Korean used Chinese language for intellectual pursuits.

Korea and Silla dynasty accepted tributary system of the Tang dynasty, and from that point of time, China treated Korea as its younger brother. However, things started to turn blue when in 1894 both Japan and Korea defeated China. Japan then interference in 1910 till 1945 was very heavy handed. Japan tried to emasculate Korean culture, their names.

In the current context- polls conducted a by Korean news agency on the perception of South Korean youth shows that 4 out10 view China as premier threat, similarly, 2 out 10 see japan aand 2 out of the rest see Japan and North Korea as major threat respectively. 

Furthermore, policy makers are not willing to say anything adverse about China, which can be backed by the fact that South Korea’s to reliant on China in terms of trade and exchange with China. Thus, South Korea-North Korea relation will depend on Chinese behaviour. This visit is said to important because it was termed as the visit of ‘heart and trust’. The heart certainly comes from the 2000 years of past relations.

Jayadeva Ranade

Primarily from the Chinese perspective, when China to establish relations first tried with Seoul, there was a find of flux in the region. A real fear that was expressed by the Chinese foreign ministry was that if such a thing will swamp North Korea and the US will take over the regional dominance. On the other hand, by improving China-Korean trade relation- China would like to ensure South Korean dependence on Chinese market-which is an integral part of Chinese strategy.

A major factor between North Korea and South Korea is China. And again the kind of flux we have been seeing, overall, North Korea is not optimistic about China. Their ties only remain ideological. We also see the level of diplomatic exchanges between the countries has been complex by far. North Koreans officials are too sceptical on the efforts by the way Beijing is playing Pyongyang to ensure its continuing leverage vis-à-vis Washington. To safeguard the strategic benefit, the Chinese have also made it clear that it won’t compromise on any territorial and sovereignty claims made by any of the neighbouring countries and at the same time, it also attempts to woo the US and diffuse its Pivot to Asia.    


Session-II: Post Upper House Elections in Japan

Dr. Rajaram Panda

This is Abe’s second term in office, and he returns to office for the second time in December 2011 with a massive two third majority. On 21st July Japan had the election in the upper house where 2/3rd majority was missed...why it has been missed? And why it is going to be a significant for Abe’s government.

Economic revival of Japan remains first priority of Abe Government. As a part of the Abenomics, Abe launched a risky and aggressive fiscal and monetary stimuli plan, the first two components of Abenomics. These were designed to push down the value of the Japanese yen against the US dollar and boost exports. With the end of political instability in Japan, which saw six prime Ministers, 10 defence ministers and 10 Justice Ministers. A point worth noting is that in the current upper house election the share of voting was 52.64% as against 57.98 in July 2010. This shows that smaller parties have garnered some percent of the vote. Abe moves will be analysed on two fronts: first on Japan’s nuclear power generation issue, and second on the division of constitution.

People will watch Abe’s moves on revising the constitution closely as LDP’s coalition partner the New Komeito will check his moves since the party is cautious about weakening Article 96. The other priority is reviving the US imposed constitution which is going to be very difficult task for Abe’s Japan, given the public outcry and pressure from the coalition.  

What does this election mean in the context of India’s relation with Japan?

Abe is a good friend of India and looks at India with hope. Under Abe, India-Japan Abe has a full agenda without including the constitutional revision and he has three years to achieve his right-leaning policy goals. While addressing to the economic issues, Abe will gradually start discussions on amending the Constitution. With majority in both the chambers and grant of political stability, his strategy would be to calmly deepen the debate. An India-Japan relation is likely to see an upswing in four key areas. First, in the service and farm sector, India is likely to increase its presence in Japan. Second, the civil nuclear pact is likely to be clinched soon as both countries are committed. Third, Japanese investment is likely to increase. Fourth, defence and military cooperation will be strengthened further, particularly in maritime security.

Abe and Japan-South Korea-China Triangle
Dr. Shamshad Khan
The upper house election in Japan has enhanced Abe’s political power. Now, how this upper house will affect Japan’s security policy and Japans neighbourhood policy?
There are two fund issues: one is to revise the constitution and then changing the interpretation and internal balancing. There are debates that can’t be discounted. There is majority in both the upper house and lower house and there is a position from the society that Abe will take three years to tackle Abenomics and last two years for revision.
Every effort to change the constitution was seen as resurgence towards Japans right ward shift or militarism. So similarly, this concern is also for the neighbour. South Korea-Japan relation has not improved. Whenever there are elections in Japan, issue of historical territory claims and comfort women crops up. But there were hope that new president will meet Abe and have value based for policy, this however, has not happened.
Despite the fact Abe tried to improve ties with China and South Korea, both countries are trying to say no to Abe’s gesture. The trilateral meeting which was held in Kyoto in 2012, after which there was no summit level talks between the three countries. 

Abe’s ASEAN diplomacy is also worth noting. He visited seven countries including Brunei, Laos, and Cambodia focusing to enhance strategic tie. Japan also offered Philippine 10 naval vessels/cutter (through ODA), which signals that Abe is keen to come out of its isolation by engaging with ASEAN. 
Japan finds reason to augment its defense posture because there is no opposition from ASEAN countries- ASEAN sees strong Japan as a balance to China. And also Chinese maritime forces have been regularly intruding into Japan’s maritime territory and so called Japan’s Aerospace which give Japan all the more reason to enhance its defense and security position.