Introduction to the special issue: regional rivalries and order in East Asia

Author
Kan Kimura
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal
International Relations of the Asia-Pacific
Volume
14
Issue Number
1
Publication Date
January 2014
Institution
Japan Association of International Relations
Abstract
In recent years, East Asian countries have faced serious challenges with regard to regional security. The bilateral relationships between China and Japan, and Japan and South Korea, have become increasingly strained due to a variety of disagreements over key political issues, such as territorial claims. Some observers argue that China and Japan may become involved in a direct military confrontation in the near future over the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands. The increasing levels of naval and aerial engagements between the two countries demonstrate that such arguments can no longer be seen as 'out of the question'. While two democracies in the region, Japan and South Korea, are both major alliance partners with the United States and share the key security concern of countering North Korea's nuclear and conventional provocations, the two have suffered deteriorating relations since 2012. For instance, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which provided a mechanism through which Japan and South Korea could share military technology, was canceled in July 2012. Furthermore, the two states have been embroiled in an increasingly antagonistic territorial dispute over Takeshima/Dokdo Islands since President Lee Myung-bak's visit to the islands in August 2012.
Topic
International Relations
Political Geography
Japan, China, East Asia, South Korea
In recent years, East Asian countries have faced serious challenges with regard to regional security. The bilateral relationships between China and Japan, and Japan and South Korea, have become increasingly strained due to a variety of disagreements over key political issues, such as territorial claims. Some observers argue that China and Japan may become involved in a direct military confrontation in the near future over the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands. The increasing levels of naval and aerial engagements between the two countries demonstrate that such arguments can no longer be seen as 'out of the question'. While two democracies in the region, Japan and South Korea, are both major alliance partners with the United States and share the key security concern of countering North Korea's nuclear and conventional provocations, the two have suffered deteriorating relations since 2012. For instance, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which provided a mechanism through which Japan and South Korea could share military technology, was canceled in July 2012. Furthermore, the two states have been embroiled in an International Relations of the Asia-Pacific Vol. 14 No. 1 © The author [2013]. Published by Oxford University Press in association with the Japan Association of International Relations; all rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com International Relations of the Asia-Pacific Volume 14 (2014) 1–5 doi:10.1093/irap/lct022 Advance Access published on 15 December 2013 at Columbia University Health Sciences Library on January 30, 2014 http://irap.oxfordjournals.org/ Downloaded from increasingly antagonistic territorial dispute over Takeshima/Dokdo Islands since President Lee Myung-bak's visit to the islands in August 2012. It was against this background that we organized the East Asian Security Workshop at Kobe University, Japan, on 18–19 April 2013, sponsored by the Suntory Foundation. We were fortunate to have participants from a variety of countries, including Erik Gartzke, Takeshi Iida, Toshio Nagahisa, Barry O'Neill and others. The workshop was a great opportunity to exchange ideas across continents, and the presentations generated exciting discussions. We selected six papers from the workshop that we proposed to be published as a special issue of the International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, entitled 'Regional Rivalries and Order in East Asia'. We are pleased to share our research outputs with readers of the journal. This special issue consists of two major parts. The first three papers address domestic politics and interstate disputes in East Asia. The next three papers are associated with regional order in East Asia. To begin with, Takeuchi investigates the initiation and escalation of Sino–Japanese disputes with a focus on domestic politics by applying a game-theoretic model. He doubts the utility of realism and liberalism in explaining the fluctuations of Sino–Japanese relations. The rise of China and the decline of Japan do not always stimulate competition over regional leadership, whereas deeper economic interdependence does not always prevent the initiation and escalation of disputes. He argues that domestic politics on both sides of the dispute result in uncertainty regarding leaders' intentions, which drives the initiation and escalation of an unnecessary dispute. His game-theoretic model specifies the conditions under which China and Japan initiate and escalate disputes. Once hawkish leaders come into power in China, they tend to raise interstate tensions and increase Japan's uncertainty about Chinese leaders' attributes. Once a hawkish leader takes a hard line in Japan, Chinese leaders tend to raise interstate tensions because they are not sure whether the public follows the upsurge of nationalism in Japan. Moreover, if Japanese leaders believe they are dealing with hawkish Chinese leaders, a shift from hawkish to dovish Chinese leaders does not mitigate interstate tensions because dovish leaders have incentives to bluff in order to pursue foreign policy goals. This analysis reveals the micro-foundation of the recent Sino–Japan disputes and has implications for examining the disputes between autocracy and democracy. Kagotani, Kimura and Weber address Japan–South Korea disputes and explore a driving force behind the volatility of South Korea's foreign policy 2 Kan Kimura at Columbia University Health Sciences Library on January 30, 2014 http://irap.oxfordjournals.org/ Downloaded from toward Japan. We examine diversionary incentives such as economic turmoil, public approval and national elections. The quantitative analysis of South Korean foreign policy in the period of 1988–2011 shows that like mature democracies, Korean leaders seem to react to economic distress by diverting the public's attention toward low-intensity disputes against Japan, but that unlike mature democracies, leaders do not resort to diversionary behavior in the shadow of public approval ratings and national elections because of domestic political institutional settings. The literature often attributes historical antagonism and US commitment to East Asia to the escalation/de-escalation of Japan–South Korea disputes. However, the results of this paper shed light on the importance of domestic politics to explain foreign policymaking in South Korea, which was democratized in the late 1980s. After twenty-five years of democracy, South Korean leaders seem to deeply care about the public's evaluation of their macroeconomic performance, which is a driving force behind Korea's diversionary foreign policy. Policymakers should take this argument into account to mitigate the current escalation of Japan–South Korea disputes. Goldsmith examines the relationship between polity types and conflict initiation and explores the pacifying effect of democratic institutions in East Asia. The literature points out that domestic accountability can help prevent leaders from resorting to an unnecessary war; however, this claim has little empirical support in East Asia. Goldsmith investigates the characteristics of democratic institutions by dividing them into political competition, political participation and political constraints. He contends that criticisms from the opposition groups can increase the risk of failed foreign policy and prevent office-seeking leaders from initiating an interstate dispute. He derives the proposition that a democratic state with more political competition is less likely to fight with another democracy than an autocracy. The quantitative analysis of foreign policy behavior during the period 1948–2006 supports the pacifying effects of political competition with both global cases and East Asian cases. Goldsmith refines the institutional theory of democratic peace and shows that East Asia is not an exception in this regard. Moving onto the discussion on the regional order, Kagotani and Yanai focus on the United States–Japan security treaty as the most important stabilizer of East Asian security and address the politics of US overseas bases that is critical to the management of the United States–Japan alliance. Some partner countries, such as Germany and Japan, understand the Introduction 3 at Columbia University Health Sciences Library on January 30, 2014 http://irap.oxfordjournals.org/ Downloaded from importance of hosting US troops in overseas bases for their own security. In other countries, strong local opposition forced the US bases to withdraw from their partners' territories. However, locals do not always support the US overseas bases even though their governments continue to host them. Kagotani and Yanai examine the 1972–2006 Okinawa gubernatorial elections where candidates had always addressed the US base problem as an issue and pro-base candidates received majority support from locals. The collective opinion of the literature is that Okinawans are generally opposed to the US bases and that it is the incentive structure based on base-related subsidies, which determines election outcomes. However, Kagotani and Yanai find that it is external threats, which encourage Okinawans to support pro-base candidates. Contrary to the prevailing view in the literature, they also find that material benefits, such as fiscal transfers and baserelated subsidies, have a much smaller impact on election outcomes than material and psychological risks, such as plane crashes, environmental and noise pollution, and rape incidents. To depoliticize the US base issue in order to maintain the United States–Japan alliance, policymakers must understand the local politics in Okinawa. This paper helps in managing the United States–Japan security treaty and securing peace in East Asia. Dorussen and Kirchner study the determinants of a broader agenda in regional security organizations (RSOs) and examine the impact of such an agenda in RSOs on the incidence of regional conflicts. In the literature, some recognize hegemony as a significant factor in establishing a broader scope of RSOs, whereas others argue that similarity among members in capabilities and political systems promotes expanding the scope of RSOs. Dorussen and Kirchner examine twenty-five RSOs in the period 1990– 2010, and their quantitative analysis supports the latter view. They also find that a RSO with a longer history and more members experiences greater success in covering a broader agenda, which means that institutionalization matters for establishing a comprehensive RSO. By controlling these factors, Dorussen and Kirchner attempt to examine the impact of such RSOs on regional security and find only weak empirical support for the pacifying effect of RSOs on the incidence of regional conflicts. According to their analysis, the impact of RSOs in East Asia is not an exception compared with the impact of other RSOs in the world. Since previous regional conflicts are more likely to trigger future regional conflicts in East Asia, the effect of East Asian RSOs appears weaker than the effect of RSOs in other regions. 4 Kan Kimura at Columbia University Health Sciences Library on January 30, 2014 http://irap.oxfordjournals.org/ Downloaded from Stein reexamines the origin of regional order in Asia and Western Europe by focusing on strategic interaction between the United States and local powers. Conventional wisdom holds that the US grand strategy played a significant role in forming the shape of regional order in the postwar period and, furthermore, that the United States pursued bilateralism in Asia and multilateralism in Western Europe. According to the realist view, the world order reflects the preferences of great powers and the US unilaterally pursued its regional strategy, which local powers in Asia and Western Europe followed. However, Stein argues that strategic interactions matter during the time of reconstruction. While Western European countries agreed to pursue joint security and economic gains through the creation of regional organizations, the US multilateral strategy was interrupted by European countries' conflicting interests in Asian colonies and antagonism among Asian countries. As a result, the United States switched to a bilateral strategy to recover the regional economy and secure East Asian countries from the influence of communists. Though this is a well-known fact among historians, Stein helpfully organizes these historical facts to explain the origin of regional order in Asia and Western Europe. This helps international relations theorists to explore the evolution of regional order. We hope that our scholarly contributions in this special issue, which give particular emphasis to scientific methods and theoretical approaches to regional security in East Asia, will stimulate further related studies on this important topic and encourage us to find a way to create a stable regional security order in the region.