The independent resource on global security

5. North-East Asia and multilateral security institutions




While much of the current optimism regarding the future of multilateral
security institutions focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, participation in such
institutions by countries in the subregion of North-East Asia remains highly
problematic. Relations among North-East Asian governments appear to lack
certain critical prerequisites for the establishment of such institutions: a
modicum of trust and mutual confidence and consensus on what the means of
co-operation should be. Moreover, the absence of such institutions is rooted in
complex factors of culture, history and geography, upon which must be overlaid
the complexities of post-World War II animosities, territorial disputes,
cold war legacies, domestic political transitions and uncertainties in the
strategic climate.

In the face of the challenges presented by the cultural, historical and
contemporary political realities attending this subregion's complex domestic
and international relationships, the aims of past efforts to create an
effective and functioning regional security institution for North-East Asia
remain unrealized. The development of effective regional or subregional
multilateral security institutions in Asia-Pacific will be a long and drawn-out
process even under the best of conditions.

The successes of the APEC Seattle summit meeting and the establishment of the
ASEAN Regional Forum were encouraging developments, but they should not bring
false hope to the tasks of multilateralism in Asia-Pacific as a whole and in
North-East Asia in particular. Rational multilateral security initiatives will
surely bear fruit over the long term in developing a more secure environment
for North-East Asia and should be welcomed and supported. However, such efforts
must bear in mind and maintain due respect for the challenging task they seek
to address.