is not going to be happy about this:

In a meeting Monday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Hatoyama told Hu he will seek cooperation from China, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in forming the envisaged regional community, with Japan and China making up its “core part,” the official said.

First Australia, and now Japan wanting to undermine ASEAN leadership….

To be fair I think the point that ASEAN advocates make in regards to ASEAN for all its weaknesses is still the forum doing the best job at regional integration (or at least providing the most neutral site for discussion about regional integration) – and other pretenders to regional leadership need to show that they can get on with other members before trying to take this mantle- but if at any point SK, China and Japan can even feint a good working relationship then it is going to be hard to make the argument that this bloc with both its economic, technological and human power should not be the core of an East Asian Community. This is the key problem with ASEAN’s informal and consensual approach – yes it might be the best we can hope  for currently since a rules-based regime is not going to happen anytime soon, but equally, it is easy to displace.

I am encouraged that Japan and China are looking at the climate issue – Japan has an important duty to influence China in this regard as I think most of the Western powers in their reaction to Copenhagen probably did not help their cause in terms of trying to have ongoing influence over China on this issue. Japan being a technological leader in climate change mitigation technology, and with China reaching out to Japan in this way as seen later in the article, is likely a very good sign.

Anyhow, this goodwill could all be undone very quickly as we know – especially with the success that Tachiagare Nippon is going to have with the exciting, rising and enthusiastic tide of nationalist sentiment they are going to capitalize on….

5 thoughts on “ASEAN….

  1. Hm, i am not quite sure i agree with your choice of words on the issue of Japan’s “duty to influence China”. Even though on paper the technological cooperation issue looks like a wonderful thing to promote regional stability, it is actually old news in terms of climate negotiations.

    Essentially Japan has been trying for ages to gain some form of recognition for exporting its energy-efficient technology to developing countries. One should not be deceived into thinking that this is done solely in the name of enhancing its soft power in its immediate neighbourhood – ultimately what Japan wants is credits to offset its domestic emissions, without which it is going to be a deep, deep trouble to live up to its new -25% pledge for 2020.

    The two countries could not be further apart in what they expect to come out of the climate negotiations on the shape of the post-2012 regime. We’ve just had Climate Talks in Bonn last week and Japan has been going on again about how it wishes to see a single international treaty binding all major emitters – industrialized or industrializing – equally to commensurate efforts measurable by identical standards. Copenhagen has shown this to be a political impossibility, because of opposition from both the US and China (not to mention India et al.).

    Ergo, what Japan ultimately wants China will not give, not in a million years, ceteris paribus. However, China is happy to see Japan fork over better factories and large-scale infrastructure projects in exchange for which it needs to do nothing. After all, the credits that Japan would receive for those projects are conjured up from a hat by the UNFCCC – and China incurs no cost whatsoever.

    Essentially what happened on Monday was a needy Japan trying to get China to play along, to which Beijing was like, “Whatever, baby, maybe later, how about you givin’ me some sugah right now?”. Hardly reaching out, more like grabbing all you can get.

    Tachiagare Nippon… *snigger* Oh, lord, the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

  2. Climate Morio

    Thanks for your contribution – I will fully admit to not really knowing much about the ins and outs of the various climate change negotiations so thanks for taking the time for providing detailed comment. It is an interesting point you make about the domestic emissions offsets – I was certainly aware of the first part of the technology transfer calculus but it makes sense. Let’s hope they have valued the actions on the basis of the former rather than the unlikely latter. To be sure I have never been particularly confident of any agreed rules based approach being negotiated – I guess I saw the “duty” in two ways – 1) that Japan will continue trying to work with countries in Asia in the area of environmental impact mitigation and 2) that Japan, with its history of not getting too down on the Chinese when the rest of the world is pissed at them (rightly or wrongly), might be able to exercise some influence that might make some agreeable possible. But as you have pointed out, I guess since the two countries are as far apart as they are, then the second part of this is probably not as important as I imagined.

  3. I completely agree. If Northeast Asia would feign a good working relationship, ASEAN is out as contender for leading East Asian integration. Just some years ago people in ASEAN thought NEA will never get past their petty quarrel over history and stuff but then there was the trilateral summit and then there was DPJ and Beijing reaching out to each other.

    To be a contender again, ASEAN must go beyond consensual talk-shop to a viable bloc that’s capable of not only disciplining erring members like Myanmar but also of preventing conflict among its members ( like Cambodia and Thailand). Unfortunately, ASEAN members are too complacent.

    • Thanks for the comment J.

      Yeah, that is sort of what the ASEAN Charter was intended to do, but if they can only go so far as “encouraging” Myanmar to have fair elections this year then one wonders about the exercise. Nevertheless, the NE Asia bloc has not demonstrated anything like the leadership and neutrality that ASEAN has….as you have pointed out things are not as bad in the NE Asia area as they were 5-6 years ago….but they can spin out of control very easily too while ASEAN has demonstrated some consistency and restraint for some time now.

  4. Well, the ASEAN Charter only formalized what already existed: emphasis on non-intervention over human rights, absence of mechanisms to deal with Myanmar, etc. You are right though that NEA relations remain unstable in comparison to ASEAN. 😀

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