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Letter from the Editors
In looking back at the practice of diplomacy in 2018, it wouldn’t be farfetched to dub it “The Year of the Summit,” particularly in Asia, as the introduction to our cover package argues.
The year opened with the world fearing a possible military conflict on the Korean Peninsula following months of heated rhetoric from US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But as was quickly shown by the subsequent summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim, and between Trump and Kim, dialogue among leaders determined to change the course of events can have an impact on re-calibrating discourse, even when the thorniest differences remain. Only the future will tell where current efforts to address the many contentious issues on the Korean Peninsula will lead, but if they ultimately succeed — even several years hence — the high-level meetings that marked 2018 will be seen as historic examples of the power and promise of summit diplomacy.
In this issue of Global Asia, we take an in-depth look at the exercise of summit diplomacy in Asia, not just with regard to the Korean Peninsula, but also to the many issues that threaten stability in relations among China, Japan and South Korea, as well as the wider role of the United States in the region. We expand the remit of that inquiry in our In Focus section, examining the emergence in recent years of a variety of forums that are increasingly institutionalizing summit diplomacy in Asia — from the Shanghai Co-operation Organization to the Belt and Road Initiative to regional trade negotiations. This complex mosaic of summitry is vital in its own right as an opportunity for high-level dialogue, but also threatens to become a venue in which the regional rivalry between China and the US could play out.
The articles on summit diplomacy presented here have their origin in a conference held on Oct. 29, 2018, at the University of California, San Diego, sponsored by the School of Global Policy and Strategy, the Korea-Pacific Program and The Asia Research Fund.
In our Features section, we explore the implications of China’s inland nuclear-power policies for developing countries, as China seeks not only to vastly expand the development of nuclear plants along its inland waterways, but to export that technology to emerging economies around the globe; we examine in detail Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determined effort to amend Article 9 of the country’s constitution, which prohibits Japan from going to war and maintaining a military, and ask whether those efforts really matter, after all; we reveal the complex challenges India and Japan face in seeking to navigate the Great Power rivalry between China and the US; and we lay out the extent of the risks that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest assault on a prominent journalist means for freedom of the press in one of Asia’s bastions of a vibrant media.
Our book review section, meanwhile, highlights a wide range of the most engaging recent works on Asia.
Walter C. Clemens, Jr
07 Feb 2018 - North Korea now deigns to take part in the Winter Olympics. Its rulers may again be ready to negotiate—not only with South Korea but also with the United States. Claiming that it now has the means to deter an American attack, Pyongyang exudes confidence that it can counter threats by the US and its South Korean ally. US Ambassador Nikki Haley complains that North Korea is “obses… Read full post
05 Dec 2017 - The recent electoral victory of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition has brought down the curtains -- at least for now -- on a period of political flux and uncertainty in the country’s political landscape. In the run-up to the elections held on Oct. 22, the Abe government had been plagued by a series of scandals and g… Read full post
20 Sep 2017 - The Malabar 2017 naval exercises were held in the Bay of Bengal during July 10-17 with participation from the Indian, US and Japanese navies to “increase interoperability amongst the three navies as well as to develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.”1 Although the Malabar started out as bilateral exercises between India and the US back in 19… Read full post
06 Sep 2017 - Amid the growing anxiety generated by North Korea’s recent missile tests and its dramatic sixth nuclear test, the Trump administration is grappling with the challenge of finding a proportionate response. Somehow, it needs to simultaneously punish the North for its continuing provocations, slow down and ultimately reverse Kim Jong-un’s WMD modernization program, and ensure that t… Read full post
Robert E. McCoy
25 Aug 2017 - Much has been made of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s desire to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the special industrial zone set up in 2002 in North Korea where South Korean businesses could operate using workers from the North. As most readers will recall, Moon’s predecessor shut down the KIC in February 2016 in response to an earlier North Korean nuclear test … Read full post
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