Condition for Peace in East Asia
One of the challenges facing newly elected leaders in Northeast Asia as well as in the United States will be the daunting task of how best to handle tensions in Northeast Asia, said Mr. Min-soon Song, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In SolBridge’s final Wiseman Lecture of the semester, Song shared his insights on the state of affairs in Northeast Asia and how these events, when viewed as a whole, have a global impact. To be sure, as Song emphasized in his hour-long lecture, these events affect market and financial stability around the world. Even territorial disputes can affect financial markets. As such, understanding these events is vital for future Asian Thought Leaders.
Looking to the past as a way of understanding the present and the future, Song pointed out the three “isms” which have greatly impacted mankind throughout history and in many ways are having an impact in today’s world: irredentism, nationalism, and militarism.
“Among these, there’s the most concern about militarism,” Song said. “The rise of militarism threatens smaller countries in the region. Sixty percent of military spending is spent in in Asia.”
The rise of China, both economically and militarily in the region, is changing people’s perceptions of this Asian giant and the need for more stable relations.
“A key condition for stable US-China relations is quite important for regional stability,” he said. Are nations, including the US ready to accept China as a rising power? On the other hand, is China ready to be a reliable stakeholder in the region?”
Song also touched base on the need for regional institutions—something which forms the critical mass in the Asian Politics class taught by Dr. John Endicott and Assistant Professor Jeffrey Miller each spring.
“There is a mix of rivalry and cooperation,” Song said. Take a look at the EU. They learned from two world wars.”
Although institutions in Asia such as APEC, ASEAN, and APT (ASEAN plus three) are crucial for regional stability in the NEA (Northeast Asia), Song doesn’t see them as being competent enough to handle the rising tensions. The key continues to be the Korean peninsula with the US and China having a common vision for the Korean peninsula.
“We need a Pan-regional institute—an APT plus an East Asian summit,” he said, “with sub regional institutions.”
However, he doesn’t believe that they should be a panacea for what ills the NEA, but more useful for control.
“They should be coupled with an economic web,” Song said. It is imperative that APEC trans-Pacific partnerships must include China in them.”
Despite ongoing tensions, Song believes that more cooperation between the US and China is key for the region. However, he offered a warning.
“We should not allow to trends to collide Pax American with Pax Sinica,” he said. It should be Pax Pacifica for the future.”