Northeast Asian cooperationWe are currently at the forefront of a change in the world economy. The global financial meltdown has resulted in a significant shift from a G-7 led by the major economic powers of the United States and Europe to a G-20 forum that is inclusive of the active participation of newly-emerging countries. It is an important and symbolic move. With the shift in global power from the U.S. to Asia, the BeSeTo (Beijing-Seoul-Tokyo) cooperative scheme is being thrust into the unrelenting glare of the global spotlight. It is not a coincidence that the three neighboring countries of Korea, China and Japan have succeeded in obtaining the status of G-20 member countries.
Inevitably, discussions on regional integration in East Asia as led by Asean have their limits. The countries of Northeast Asia should play a more central role in achieving the maximum benefits of formal regional integration. The leading role played by China and Japan is integral to the realization of an East Asian community. However, Korea should serve as a mediator, dealing as necessary with the reemergence of the rivalries of the past. In this vein, the decision to establish the Secretariat for Trilateral Cooperation in Seoul is a reasonable one. If Seoul plays the same role as Brussels, where the Secretariat of the European Union is located, it will make a tremendous contribution to raising the nation’s brand image.
Korea, China and Japan should seek to develop relationships based on the future rather than the past while working to overcome their long-standing grievances. In the beginning, it may be preferable to expand the scope of trilateral cooperation from the principal areas of the environment, climate change, tourism, academic exchanges, energy cooperation and disaster prevention to more delicate areas such as free trade agreements and issues related to money, diplomacy and security.