Seminar Report

Contemporary East Asia

03 Feb, 2014    ·   4289

Angana Guha Roy reports on the proceedings

Dr Sandip Mishra
Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi

Perspectives on South Korea can be observed at three levels: domestic, peninsular and regional. At the domestic level, controversy related to the presidential elections, allegations of sabotage of the Progressive Party leader Lee Seok-ki, and allegations regarding the president’s undemocratic behaviour and her government surfaced. The economy expanded by 2.8 per cent and it has been predicted that the country expects 3.8 per cent growth in 2014 and 4 per cent in 2015.

At the peninsular level, North Korea’s nuclear test in February 2013, followed by US and South Korea’s joint military, interrupted the détente process. Even the Kaesong Industrial Complex project went through a tumultuous period. All the confidenc- building measures or policies like trust politik, ‘family reunion’ etc that South Korea came up with, remained inconclusive. At the regional level, Park’s first state visit was to China in June 2013. The good diplomatic terms were interrupted by China’s assertive ADIZ strategy. But South Korea chose to be soft on the Chinese assertion. Except Japan, South Korea maintained good diplomatic terms with US, Australia and India.

The domestic variables have important implications for South Korea’s foreign policy behaviour. In all the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, the three important changes that could bring about some determining shifts are:
• Increasing contact and understanding between South Korea and China, and distance between China and North Korea
• Existential domestic power struggle in North Korea
• Unabated aggressive posture of Japan

Dr Srabani Roy Chowdhury
Associate Professor, CEAS, SIS, JNU

There are four major perspectives with regard to Abe’s political and economic governance in Japan. The dynamics within Japan, the dynamics in East Asia, Abe’s foreign policy direction, and Indo- Japanese relations. To revive Japan’s economy, Abenomics has a three-pronged strategy: fiscal policy, monetary policy, and structural changes and their effects.

Moving onto Abe’s strategy of building security, the adoption of the National Security Strategy is an essential and important step, and quite detached from Japan’s traditional security policy. It declares that Japan must respond firmly but in a calm manner with regard to China’s attempts to change the status quo by coercion. Its New Defence Plan is part of a comprehensive national diplomatic, economic, and military effort to help counter China’s attempt at regional coercion. Interestingly, Abe’s foreign policy constitutes important concepts like ‘Confluence of the Sea’, ‘Arc of Freedom and Prosperity’ and ‘Democratic Security Diamond’.  It aims to carve out strong security cooperation with Australia, India, South Korea and some Southeast Asian countries. One of the biggest talking points for Japan in 2013 was certainly its issues with China, such as the ADIZ, Yasukuni Shrine, and intrusion of Chinese ships in Japanese waters.

With regard to South Korea, all the historical issues stand unresolved. North Korea’s military adventurism and nuclear programme, drug smuggling, marine poaching and spying were fairly reflected in Japan’s concern index. Issues apart, the economic index tells that in 2013, Japan’s import from China rose by 2.9 per cent while imports rose by only 2.2 per cent.

The India-Japan relation is a ‘new trajectory’; the nature of their strategic ties is not a recent phenomenon and formed its roots in 2006. In the coming years, it is only going to intensify. Emperor Akihito’s visit in November 2013 and inviting Abe to be the guest of honour for India’s Republic Day programme sends out strong signals to the international community. Japan, under Abe, is looking at rejuvenating itself. Its move towards non-pacifism reflected in its policy directions speaks to the international role that Japan is planning for itself, and this is going to reverberate among its neighbours negatively. It may lead to East Asia becoming a hot bed invoking ‘balance of power’ games.