North-East Asia and US Policy

By Shuja, Sharif M. | Contemporary Review, August 2002 | Go to article overview

North-East Asia and US Policy


Shuja, Sharif M., Contemporary Review


OF all Asia-related issues, China represents the most daunting challenge for the Bush Administration. The tasks include, among others, (1) to avoid a misapplication of American unilateralism in the region, which relates to the cardinal requirement of establishing a coherent American foreign policy identity; (2) to avert American policy disunity over China; and (3) to pursue free trade in ways that will make a difference in Asia without domestic political interference. These empirical issues will determine how much influence Washington will actually exercise in the region. Thus, a remarkable challenge awaits the United States.

Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan and Korea together possess more than half the world's total foreign reserves and comprise three of the world's ten largest economies. Yet this explosion of economic growth and the geopolitical implications of Asia's strategic weight appear to be underrated by the Bush Administration, on the basis of a more fundamentally nationalist instinct.

All the present signs call for leadership which asserts not nationalism and ideology but national restraint and international cooperation. The United States has built its leadership role in world affairs on traditional forms of economic and military power. These remain important. But this is a different world from the one in which the United States developed its position in the twentieth century. A global economy cannot be dominated by national economies, no matter how powerful. Warfare/security, too, is changing.

In this new era, a different kind of leadership is in demand, requiring an ability to cooperate with others to deal with problems which do not respond to the use of unilateral power, even when that power is exercised by the sole surviving superpower. Degradation of the environment, population growth, genocide, terrorism, proliferation of nuclear weapons and also chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, endemic poverty -- these are the issues which cannot be resolved by the United States, however powerful, acting alone. Nor are they issues which the United States can handle by its own example, expecting others to follow suit. The Chinese leaders had an opportunity to exchange their views on world affairs when President Bush visited China in February.

There are many important security, economic and political goals that the US cannot achieve by itself, though the US will remain the world's single most powerful state. Now the US Administration is looking for a global strategy to counter terrorism, and has sought support from its allies and other countries, including China. China finally, in the APEC meeting of October 2001, pledged to offer assistance to the US in eradicating the threat of terrorism from the world. Security will dominate the agenda of all bilateral agreements between nations. The New York terrorist outrage appears to have given a new twist to Sino-American relations. The shared desire of security for mankind is expected to build a new bond of friendship between these two giants of the world economy.

Examining the dynamics of 'Northeast Asia', this article argues that US relations with South Korea, China and Japan are virtually certain to play a major role in Washington's move toward greater multilateralism. Washington has not yet produced the kind of comprehensive strategies, or political attitudes that might foster such policies, which would enable us to say with confidence that it is likely to remain a superpower through the twenty-first century as it is now at the beginning of this century.

The US and the Two Koreas

Korea remains a major politico-strategic issue in Washington's Far East Policy for three main reasons. First, the deep distrust and hostility of the leaderships of both North and South Korea generally have barred the way to serious efforts at reconciliation and reunification. …

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