Courtesy Reuters

Re-Envisioning Asia


A key task facing the second Bush administration is devising the proper security architecture for eastern Asia. The United States is confronting several immediate problems, including the North Korean nuclear standoff, tension between China and Taiwan, and Islamist terrorism in Southeast Asia. But a forward-looking foreign policy does not simply manage crises; it shapes the context for future policy choices through the creation of international institutions. Eastern Asia has inherited a series of alliances from the early days of the Cold War. These partnerships remain important as a means of providing predictability and deterrence. But a decade and a half after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is increasingly evident that they do not fit the configuration of politics now taking shape.

The White House has an opportunity to create a visionary institutional framework for the region. In the short term, it can do so by turning the six-party talks on North Korea into a permanent five-power organization that would meet regularly to discuss various security issues in the region, beyond the North Korean nuclear threat. In the long term, Washington will need to consider ways of linking this security dialogue to the various multilateral economic forums now in existence or under consideration, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the ASEAN-plus-three group, which was formed in the wake of the Asian economic crisis and includes China, Japan, and South Korea; and the developing free-trade areas. Asian multilateralism will be critical not just for coordinating the region's booming economies, but also for damping down the nationalist passions lurking beneath the surface of every Asian country.


Unlike Europe, Asia lacks strong multilateral political institutions. Europe has the EU and NATO, as well as groups such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (osce) and the Council of Europe. Asia's only counterparts are ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum on security matters, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC)--all of which are

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