THE ASIAN PARADOX – Rising wealth, lingering tensions

10 November 2015 - 11:00 - 15:00
East Asia’s increasingly shrill territorial disputes over the past few years have exposed the region’s lack of mechanisms for maintaining sustainable peace, stoking fears that a disagreement could trigger a large conflict in the region.

A Friends of Europe conference on 10 November explored the “Asian Paradox” which is marked by the disconnect between the region’s burgeoning wealth and its lingering historical disputes and new power rivalries, nationalism and arms spending.
“In East Asia there is still an imbalance between helping the economy and neglecting the political agenda,” said Nur Hassan Wirajuda, a former Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs who is involved in several initiatives to build a stronger Asian security architecture. “Asia is increasingly seen as the new frontier of the 21st century – the up and coming centre of gravity of the world. On other hand, there are brewing conflicts, and the continent doesn’t seem to be ready to cope with them.”

Read Nur Hassan Wirajuda's keynote speech here.

The conference looked at the unpredictable situation in North Korea, tensions between Japan, China and the Republic of Korea as well as Cross-Straits relations. The South China Sea has become a particular source of tension, due to conflicting territorial claims between China and both Vietnam and the Philippines. After recent Chinese land reclamation activities on a reef, the U.S. last month sent a destroyer nearby to highlight its freedom of navigation policy.

The sea was free of disputes until 40 years ago, but then natural resources were discovered, said Shicun Wu, President and senior research fellow of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies. Now, the region needs to learn lessons from Europe: on how to solve maritime disputes; on implementing an integrated maritime strategy; and on developing a security framework. “Currently, some mechanisms are working in Asia,” he said. “But there is no architecture like in Europe with the EU and NATO.”

Despite sometimes feeling a long way away, Europeans should be concerned by the possibility of any conflict, said Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General at the NATO Emerging Security Challenges Division and a Trustee of Friends of Europe. “NATO has an interest in stopping wars breaking out in areas where we have accumulated experience – and a war in Asia would be catastrophic for the European economy,” he said. “I do not buy the argument that economic integration is somehow going to ameliorate these issues. That doesn’t prevent countries acting against their interests and doing something suicidal like going to war. Look at Russia and Crimea.”

You may view discussions from this conference on Twitter using #SecurityEU.

Related content

Guest contributions from two featured speakers were published on the Friends of Europe website following the conference. Read them here:


Session I - Asian security today: living with a "cold peace"

Session II - Asian security tomorrow: working for peace in our time

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Session I - Asian security today: living with a "cold peace"

Session II - Asian security tomorrow: working for peace in our time


08.30 – 09.00 Registration of participants

9.00 – 9.30 Welcome and introductory remarks

Keynote speech

Nur Hassan Wirajuda / Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs (2001 - 2009)

09.30  11.00 - Session I - Asian security today: living with a "cold peace"

The Asian Century is marked by an over-arching paradox. The region’s vibrant economies remain in the global spotlight as the region expands and deepens its trade and investment networks.  But Asia is also home to many unresolved territorial disputes, lingering historical animosities, increasingly strident nationalism and a rise in arms spending.

  • Can expanding trade and investment integration help Asian nations move beyond historical grievances toward better political relations?

  • What is being done to forge a political order and Asian security framework that will encourage sustained stability and trust between countries?

  • What is the impact of Cross-Straits relations on regional security and integration?


Sebastian Bersick / Chair holder in International political economy of East Asia at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Aidan Foster-Carter / Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea, University of Leeds

Kimie Hara / Director of East Asian Studies at the University of Waterloo

Ong Keng Yong / Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Bonji Ohara / Research fellow, The Tokyo Foundation

Andrew Yang / Professor, General Education Center, National Sun Yat-sen University

Moderated by

Shada Islam / Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

11.00 – 11.30 Coffee break

11.30  13.00 - Session II - Asian security tomorrow: working for peace in our time

The United States as well as regional players such as China, Japan, India and ASEAN play important roles in Asian security.  The EU is also emerging as a significant security actor in the region in its capacity as a “soft” power as well as in the area of maritime security, tackling non-traditional security challenges, peace-making and conflict resolution.

  • Can the success in European-Asian maritime security cooperation be extended and become a model for further joint actions?

  • Are there any lessons for Asia from Europe’s experience in reconciling adversaries as well as conflict resolution and management?

  • Should Asia create a NATO-like regional alliance? What is the outlook for greater cooperation between NATO and Asian nations?


Kongdan Katy Oh Hassig / Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution

Arif Havas Oegroseno / Executive Member of the Asian Society of International Law

Michael Reiterer / Principal Adviser at the Asia and Pacific Department of the European External Action Service

Jamie Shea / Deputy Assistant Secretary General at the NATO Emerging Security Challenges Division and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Chunjuan Nancy Wei / Associate Professor in East Asian and Pacific Rim Studies at the University of Bridgeport

Shicun Wu / President and senior research fellow of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies

Moderated by

Shada Islam / Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

13.00 End of Conference

In cooperation with

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung     NATO

The Mission of Japan to the European Union

Canada Department of National Defence’s Engagement Program

Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium


Media partner

Europe's World


With the support of

LogoYPFP     Imprimer


The global security landscape is in flux. From increased tensions between NATO and Russia and ongoing difficult Brexit negotiations to China’s more assertive global stand under the consolidated leadership of President Xi Jinping, new challenges are continuously putting into question global security frameworks and approaches.


Sophia Kabir, Programme Manager
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 21
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Event starts
10 November