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Regional Peace Building: The Korean Peninsula and North-east Asia

10 June 2010, Centre for Asian Pacific Studies, Lingnan University

Regional Cooperation in North-east Asia: Lessons from Europe?
Brian Bridges
Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Lingnan University

This paper seeks to examine whether regional cooperation and regional institutions can promote peace and stability in North-east Asia through a comparison with the experiences of regionalism as a means of promoting reconciliation, peace and prosperity in Europe.

The first part of the paper examines briefly some key characteristics of the dynamic, though by no means smooth, process of reconstruction, reconciliation and integration in Europe, specifically in the context of  Germany’s postwar relations with its neighbours and the emergence of the European Community as the pre-eminent representation of the European ‘dream’.

In discussing the approaches of Europeans, albeit in a generalised fashion, broad similarities and differences with Asian approaches will be considered. While the states of both regions share certain ideals such as a belief in the efficacy of regional organizations in bringing about peace, prosperity and stability, at the same time there are significant differences in timing and format, types of leadership and initiative, focus and agendas, and, arguably, even the fundamental kinds of regionalism.

In the second part of the paper, Asian regionalism will be narrowed down more specifically to the major challenges faced, and still being faced, in North-east Asia. Noted is the lack of any North-east Asian regional cooperative organisation comparable to ASEAN or the EU, while the existing Asian regional organisations tend to be focused on broader or non-North-east Asian priorities. In this context these challenges include: the relative lack of regional institutionalization, rivalry for leadership, the historical legacies and continuing tensions, the role of external powers, the relatively limited extent of a common identity, and the potential impact of non-traditional security issues. These aspects will be discussed as a way of considering whether it is realistic to consider ‘transplanting’ any aspects of the European experience to North-east Asia. It will be argued that some aspects of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) experience might contribute to the construction of a new framework for relations in the region.

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