Security Issues and New Transnational Peace-Related Movements in East Asia, the 1990s and 2000s

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the end of the Cold War, scholars have debated over whether or not East Asia is "ripe for rivalry" and recurrent tensions and crises in the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula since the early 1990s have made this region of the world a closely watched one (Berger, 2000; Friedberg, 1993-94; Christenson, 1999). In addition to new opportunities and challenges for states, the end of the Cold War and political changes have also presented new opportunities for civil society activism which has in turn also affected the prospects for peace in the region. In the past two decades, new social movements dealing directly with security-related issues have emerged in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan at not only the local and national level, but also at the regional and international level. This article looks at these new movements to analyze the ways in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social activists and forces "from below" have affected the security environment in Northeast Asia. As I shall show, these new peace-related movements play multifaceted roles, sometimes offering new solutions, while at other times adding to existing tensions or posing dilemmas to states.

Surveying the literature and the internet world of peace groups websites, there are three major security-related issue areas in Northeast Asia that have emerged as a focus of NGOs and transnational networks since the early 1990s: the North Korea crisis, the issue of US military bases, and regional conflict over Japan's pre-war and wartime history in the region. In all of these areas, there has been a flourishing of new groups and/or reactivation of old groups in many countries, as well as new transnational and international linkages among groups. The emergence of these new networks has not been politically, socially or economically irrelevant--these movements have helped channel hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to North Korea, have offered diplomatic policy alternatives to the nuclear crisis, and have placed new sensitive items that affect regional security on the agenda such as history and the placing of US military bases. In their transnational form, the movements have also offered new possibilities for promoting better relations among countries in the region.

After briefly outlining some of the factors that have supported the growth of new transnational networks in Northeast Asia, this article examines these three emerging peace-related networks. Each movement is described in separate sections that outline the national, regional and global aspects of each movement. As a first cut on the topic, my intention is to provide a "big picture" view that maps out these new movements and not a fine-tuned analysis of each movement's successes and failures. Since some of these movements are still expanding or on-going, such detailed analysis might be premature. The article ends with a conclusion that assesses the implications of the rise of the movements and returns to the question of why NGOs and transnational networks matter in Northeast Asia.

The Emergence of Transnational Networks in East Asia: An Overview

As has been documented in many recent books and studies, in the past 20-30 years there has been a worldwide proliferation of NGOs and new transnational movements (Keck and Sikkink, 1998). Although international peace movements can trace their roots as far back as the mid-late 19th century, such movements have also undergone enormous diversification and expansion in recent decades and now include many coalitions and focal points ranging from nuclear war to landmine bans to regional hotspots such as the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Although activists from Northeast Asia have participated in some of these global networks--most notably, longtime Japanese participation in global campaigns to end nuclear armament--it is only in recent years that peace-related groups and movements operating regionally have emerged. …