The Northeast Asian International Order and Nationalism

N-AziaThe international order in Northeast Asia is in transition due to the changing dynamics between the nations in this region, such as the rise of China, Japan’s movement for normalization, North Korean nuclear crisis, and the U.S.’ uncertain positions for these events. Japan’s Dokdo provocation, the Sino-Japanese dispute o ver Tiao-yu-tai(Senkaku) Islands, the Russo-Japanese dispute over Kuril Islands, and the “war of memories ” concerning the past affairs are repeating and repeating.

This order of division, conflict, and confrontation in the Northeast region is originated from the fact that the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which was conclude d just after the end of the World War II and set the current international order, is neither harmonious nor pe aceful. This treaty not only hindered the rebuilding of a sound postwar relationship between the nations in t his region, but also made the relations dotted with tension, confrontation, and conflict even after the end of the Cold War, by forming an unsuitable foundation for the East Asian international relations.

This study tri es to clarify that the origin of the current instability in the East Asian international order is the imperfectnes s and non-functioning of the San Francisco Peace Treaty as a peace treaty, and to analyze the historical orig in of the confrontational and discordant East Asian order and the role of the U.S. in setting the direction of t he East Asian regional order in the future, considering that the U.S. has some responsibility to solve the pro blem in that it took the leadership role in the conclusion of the treaty. In addition, periodical tensions, confrontation, and conflict in the Northeast Asian region are caused by the security dilemma between the nations, and this security dilemma stems from nationalism, which is based on distrust against other states.

Currently, in East Asia, the Cold War order surrounding the Koran Peninsula, which was formed under the leadership of the U.S. after World War II, still remains, and national borders o r territorial boundaries of the states are not greatly different from the San Francisco Treaty stipulation. The latent structure of Sino-Japanese confrontation(the dispute over the Tiao-yu-tai(Senkaku) Islands and the co mpetition for regional hegemony) and Korea-Japan conflicts over history and territory(problems concernin g Dokdo, history textbook., and Yaskuni Shrine) are typical examples which demonstrate that exclusive an d aggressive nationalism is working in Korea, China, and Japan.

These three nations all are aiming to build a modern state grounded on national unification and national solidarity and are not free from the modern na tionalism expressed by territorial and historical disputes. Such closed nationalism is reproducing confrontat ion, conflict, and the vicious circle of memories in the East Asian regional order. As a western concept, nationalism was introduced into East Asia with the invasion of Western Europe and was accepted during the process of nation-state building.

Compared with the spontaneous and endogenous nation-state building of Western Europe, that of East Asia is characterized by strong resistance and national consciousness aroused by the invasion of Western Europe. Because nationalism is a double-edged sword, which has both positive and negative aspects, this study attempts to bring out the positive and minimize the negative aspect. Especially, East Asian nations still failing to complete the modern state building which aims at national unity and solidarity should not overlook the positive side of nationalism. Nevertheless, East Asia seems to move toward not open but closed nationalism, and this pattern creates the order of confrontation, conflict and vicious circle of memories in this region.

Therefore, an in-depth analysis on the East Asian nationalism is urgently needed, focusing on the introduction and development, the strengthening mechanism after the Cold War, and the conflict causing process of nationalism in each state. Before the introduction of nationalism, East Asian perceptions were all based on Sino-centrism. Therefore, a systematic study and in-depth analysis on Chinese nationalism could be the foundation for the study on Korean and Japanese nationalism.

Created by LI Chun-fu

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