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.”
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.”
Read the full report on this conference here.
To view photos and videos from the Asian Paradox conference, please visit the event page.
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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