This seminar will focus on the postwar relations in East Asia. Myriad sources of geopolitical conflict lead many to describe the region as “ripe for rivalry” and state-to-state tensions remain high, particularly in Northeast Asia. On the other hand, historical relations in East Asia prior to Nineteenth Century colonialism and the coming of the West were largely benign. Moreover, economic links across Asia are high and interdependence is rising rapidly. Importantly, there have been no shooting wars in Northeast Asia since the Korean armistice in 1953 and Southeast Asia saw its last major war end with the pullback of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in the Third Indochina War. These suggest a penchant for peaceful resolution of competing interests.
Despite the absence of overt warfare, however, East Asia has been grappling with a number of ongoing and emerging security problems—the rise of China; territorial disputes; historical memory and the continuation of identity-based issues; the American repositioning; and the persistence of coercive diplomacy among others.
To date many of the problems of the region have been effectively “managed” but more recently the rise of new regional institutions have helped to alleviate certain ongoing tensions. Nonetheless, hard security and defense collaboration have been far slower to develop and today many ‘hot spots’ and continued national competitions divide the region. Many states, especially in Northeast Asia, have resisted making deep institutional commitments and policy options that might limit their sovereignty or compromise existing unilateral or bilateral flexibility. This seminar will focus on this range of issues with particular attention to the various tensions between establishing closer Asian ties and the preservation of national sovereignty and the institutional efforts to reconcile these tensions.