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Changes in the Political Map of East Asia
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Changes in the Political Map of East Asia
  • By matthew
  • December 15, 2009, 00:00
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PRESIDENT Barack Obama emphasized a deeper and broader U.S. relationship with Asian countries during his recent Asian tour, promising a strengthened and sustained commitment to Asia’s rising powers.

During his four-day visit, Obama stressed that China is an important and strategic partner of the U.S. in dealing with global challenges and issues, even adding that a strong and prosperous China can strengthen the international community. Obama also gave the Chinese President Hu Jintao a sincere appreciation of China’s support for a solution regarding the North Korean nuclear weapons issue. In fact, partly thanks to China’s mediation, North Korea is soon to have a bilateral meeting with the United States.

Interestingly, while the meeting between U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Hu in Beijing signaled the beginning of a new world order, Japan and China agreed to hold their first-ever joint military training exercise as early as next year. The fact that the longtime rivals are joining naval forces suggests a momentous turning point in their future relations and a change in the power balance of East Asia.

Actually, tension between Washington and Tokyo was growing ahead of Obama’s visit to Japan. The reason was repeated comments by newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama claiming Japan has relied too much on the U.S. and will seek a more equal and closer relationship with its Asian neighbors. The extension of a Chinese-Japanese relationship into the military field may further add to disagreement between Japan and the United States regarding a previously agreed-upon military realignment plan that includes the relocation of U.S. marine forces based in Okinawa. The U.S. is no longer in a position to leverage what China should do, considering China is the U.S.’s largest creditor, holding U.S.

Treasury notes worth US$800 billion. We can also see that there is no need to criticize the military cooperation between China and Japan, considering Japan’s recognition that it cannot drive its own foreign policy simply by relying on Washington. Japan cannot ignore the reality of China’s undeniable rise and the fact that the U.S.-Japan security axis has limited its efforts at expansion into the region. What we are interested in is locating our national strategies and roles in the increasingly fluid and complex diplomatic landscape of Northeast Asia, where the interests of both South and North Koreas, the U.S., China and Japan are closely intertwined. This power change in Northeast Asia requires Seoul to refine its diplomatic strategies and prepare for the eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsular. We will closely watch discussions between the U.S. and China, as the former showed in July its intention for strategic talks with the latter regarding sudden and unexpected events in North Korea and ultimately Korean reunification.