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Northeast Asia Peace Initiative

T. Nakano: A Grand Design for Northeast Asia: Multilateral Cooperation and Physical Integration

The purpose of the paper is to sketch out a grand design for Northeast Asia on the brand new canvas that is the 21st century. Northeast Asia holds enormous potential for both dispute and development. The continuing uncertainty associated with the past 100 years of colonialism in Northeast Asia and the remnants of the cold war may create tensions and lead to some conflicts in the region. But regional development equaling that of the European Union or NAFTA is also a possibility if the region’s capital, technology, labor force and natural resources are used to complement each other to create a mechanism for multilateral cooperation. These potentials may also be influenced by the region’s rich diversity of natural environment, race, culture, historical awareness and per capita income as well as in its political systems—liberalism versus communism and market economies versus controlled economies.

By setting up a regional development framework and conceiving a grand design for Northeast Asia that embraces such diversity, we can begin our discussions for the region’s future from a trans-boundary viewpoint. The grand design for Northeast Asia is aimed at the establishment of a symbiotic community where people in Northeast Asia recognize their differences and share their wealth, and where disputes and military security issues are mitigated and a spontaneous economic bloc based on economic assistance is realized.

The structure of the cold war power balance still remains on the north-south border of the Korean Peninsula. Is there any way to build a mechanism for cooperative security based on economic assistance and social symbiosis rather than the current collective military security in this region? Furthermore, are there any effective solutions to deal with the serious global issues of the 21st century, such as terrorism, poverty/economic gap, a fragile financial system and the environment?

While no other region is as diverse as Northeast Asia, to accept these differences we must first build a complementary relationship among Northeast Asian countries, and this in turn will lead to the construction of a symbiotic community or an economic bloc. Although the “philosophy of symbiosis,” the principle of accepting each other’s values, is said to exist in this cultural sphere, negative legacies such as colonialism and past military conflicts have been suppressing it.  

Recognizing the diversity of Northeast Asia and adopting this philosophy of symbiosis, we need to draw a grand design that ought to form the foundation of development in Northeast Asia.  Moreover, by developing international public goods and local public goods across borders and achieving their physical integration efficiently, we can build a symbiotic community that encompasses the economic infrastructure and the social capital of the region. Such a design will surely be a new attempt at fostering mutual trust in the region.

Characteristics of Northeast Asia


Northeast Asia consists of four nations and two regions: Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Japan and the northeastern part of China and Russian Far East. Probably Taiwan should be included. The population of Northeast Asia is about 300 million. The size of Northeast Asia is like the United States.

This area has economic complementarities. Russian Far East has abundant natural resources; Mongolia and probably North Korea have natural resources.  China and North Korea have capable labor forces. Japan and South Korea have capital and technology.  Once we combine these elements, it is possible to create a natural economic territory or economic sphere in Northeast Asia.

In the last 120 years, there were five major wars here starting in 1895 — the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Second World War, the Korean War and the Cold War.

We have a huge gap here, including economic or political or social differences — communism, state-capitalism or capitalism. The economic gap between Japan and Mongolia is one hundred times. Also we have different understandings of history. There exist psychological gaps in this region.

Change in international situations

In Northeast Asia, the only place where the Cold War structure remains, EU countries as well as major nations, including the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have deepening concerns about the situation of North Korea. North Korea, recognized as part of the “axis of evil” by the Bush administration, has been strengthening exchanges with the international society, while maintaining the very exclusive dictatorship.

It is especially notable that North Korea, South Korea, Russia and China began taking actions to restore the railroad that connects the borders of North and South Korea, China and North Korea, and North Korea and Russia.

In addition, a movement of multilateral cooperation for regional alliances has been emerging in North Korea leading it to become a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

In regards to the problem of abduction that is considered as the entrance of normalization of diplomatic relations, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002 and North Korea admitted the abduction of Japanese people, resulting in possible normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea as well as economic cooperation for North Korea.

Looking over the “light” part of North Korea’s “light and shadow” in this way finds that North Korea is rapidly approaching to the international society. Economic decline in North Korea is affecting its pursuit of external contact in the background. Rationing of rice, etc., has been terminated since July 2002, and movements for market-oriented economic reform has been observed. Although Kim Jong-il’s structure appears to be stable from the political viewpoint, it is not able to maintain the traditional system from the economic viewpoint, and it is noteworthy how it handles such challenges as sudden rise in prices. Furthermore, in regards to chronic shortage of energy and food, it is difficult to satisfy demand without external support.

Considering these situations, the optimistic prediction that North Korea might gradually merge into the international society had been made, just as the smooth termination of the Cold War between the East and the West due to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Momentum for regional cooperation

In East Asia, nations that used to have an adversarial relationship due to ideological differences have created a forum to discuss economic, political and security issues. Such a framework, however, has not yet been established in Northeast Asia.  As we have seen through ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, ASEAN-PMC and ARF, the momentum for multilateral cooperation is gaining not only among Asian nations, but also in Europe and South America. These multilateral partnerships have been formulated mainly in Southeast Asia, and the momentum for regional cooperation is still at its initial stage in Northeast Asia.

It is worth noting that the cooperation among ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea (ASEAN+3) is getting stronger. Since the ten member states of ASEAN alone have limited resources for economic development, the partnerships with Japan, China and South Korea have great significance.

From this point of view, it is possible to draw a rough sketch that Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN members) and Northeast Asian countries can begin their cooperation with Japan, China and South Korea as the focal points. In other words, a collaborative relationship whereby ASEAN+3 can benefit North Korea, Mongolia and Far East Russia seems to be called for.

Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific

  • ASEAN: International organization established by 10 nations in Southeast Asia to accelerate economic growth, social progress, and cultural development and to solve various problems of the region.
  • APEC: Trade group established to promote mutual awareness of trade and investment, regional trade, liberalization and expansion of investment and to build a consensus concerning elimination of obstacles to free trade.
  • ASEM: Forum founded to promote cooperation between Asia and Europe, which has been relatively weak in the triangular relationship between Asia, Europe and the United States.
  • ASEAN-PMC: Annual ministerial conference of ASEAN members, concerned nations and organizations.
  • ARF: The only inter-governmental forum to discuss security issues of the Asia-Pacific. This forum has adopted a gradual evolutionary approach with three stages: promotion of confidence-building measures, development of preventive diplomacy mechanisms, and development of conflict-resolution mechanisms.


Expansion of economic bloc


The economic development of the Asia-Pacific up to the 1980s resembled a flight of wild geese, with Japan at the apex. This pattern, however, is now becoming a thing of the past. South Korea has joined the OECD, the group of developed nations, and Singapore and Hong Kong now equal the highest industrial competitiveness in the world.  In addition, the GDP of China now surpasses that of Canada, one of the G7 members, and is approaching those of Italy and the UK.  

It is a distinctive trend in the Asia-Pacific that several economic blocs have arisen spontaneously during the region’s economic development. The South China Economic Bloc has been formulated across Hong Kong, Guangdong, Taiwan and Fujian. The Yellow Sea Economic Bloc is coming into existence between Shandong and North Korea, and the Baht Economic Bloc is gradually unfolding in Indochina. In the 20th century, the economic development of individual nations was stressed; in the 21st century, however, we can safely assert, even disregarding the formation of the EU, that economic integration beyond national borders seems to have become a general trend.  Professor Robert Scalapino at the University of California, for example, has pointed out that Northeast Asia has the potential to develop as a single economic bloc.

The notion of a free trade agreement (FTA), which originated in North America, can be considered key to liberating an economy from national boundaries, and the trend has already spread to the Asia-Pacific. The ten member states of ASEAN have already formed the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) to establish a free trade region. China has opened up a dialogue with ASEAN concerning its participation in AFTA, while a bilateral free trade agreement between Japan and Singapore took effect in January 2002. Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand have worked out the framework for a free trade region that would include Papua New Guinea and East Timor. As described above, we can see movements that weaken economic boundaries in various regions and it is no longer possible to stop such trends. Hence, it is reasonable to expect that an economic bloc can be formulated in Northeast Asia.

It is not difficult to imagine that in the future an East Asia economic bloc could develop incorporating a Northeast Asia Economic Bloc (Japan, South and North Korea, three provinces of Northeast China, Far East Russia and Mongolia), ASEAN, and the other parts of China. Working closely with the Pacific Rim Economic Bloc, these economic blocs can become an “open economic bloc” and gain importance as the global economic bloc as they forge close ties with the EU and NAFTA.

Formulation of a regional network

“Symbiosis” in this context means to understand and respect diversity in culture, civilization and religion, and to vitalize a region through interactions based on such diversity. Typical patterns of behavior among Asians are often characterized as follows: they emphasize consensus building, are sympathetic towards others’ situations and feelings, and are proud of economic achievements while not too enthusiastic about quick problem solving. Further characterizations are: they attach high value to family and blood kin; respect authority, communalism and cooperation that places social stability ahead of individual desires; and promote self-discipline, frugality, respect for State and honoring the elderly.

Given such Asian patterns of behavior and the oriental concept of “harmony,” Northeast Asia represents fertile ground in which to nurture the symbiosis based on diversity. By building a “symbiotic community” that encompasses diverse relationships between nature and humans, and between ethnic groups, regions and nations, we can envision a possible framework for a new system. And such a network based on symbiosis can become possible only through activities that emphasize interactions among people.

Northeast Asia is neither a closed region nor a closed community. Rather, it is expected to become one symbiotic community through the ideal of symbiosis and, furthermore, to extend the network to the Asia-Pacific and the world so that it becomes a symbiotic network region which is open to other regions.

Security in a new regional community


Northeast Asia has hidden potential for both conflict and development. The history of conflict shows that tragic events have occurred repeatedly over a long period, some of which have yet to be fully resolved. Establishing stability in the region has to come first for the prosperity of Northeast Asia. It is desirable to achieve regional stability by creating a “symbiotic community” that respects diversity in the region. In this section we shall discuss how to achieve this from a security perspective.

The history of the last hundred years in Northeast Asia, particularly the area that borders China, North Korea and Far East Russia, has been one of heated conflict. In the early 20th century, Northeast Asia was in the process of establishing a foundation for prosperity with a certain level of infrastructure development including the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway. However, the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the China-Japan War, the Pacific War, and the Korean War erupted one after another. This sequence of wars combined with the Cold War structure has hindered the development of Northeast Asia. Although it has been over ten years since the Cold War ended, the Cold War structure still exists on the Korean Peninsula, and the border between North and South is still maintained in readiness for war. Conflict is held off through “balance of power” security.

The question is whether there is a way to prevent conflict and build a symbiotic community for stability and development of the region. Before the Pacific War, Foreign Affairs, an American journal on foreign policy, published a paper about Northeast Asia. The basic thesis of the paper was that cooperation between Japan and the United States could help develop northeastern China (formerly Manchu), particularly to help form an “open economic bloc” through infrastructure development by multi-national companies. This, the paper argued, would lead directly to the creation of trust in the region and therefore prevent conflicts before they happen.

One event that corroborated and presented a background to the argument of the Foreign Affairs article was the arrangements by which the Manchurian Railway was managed. Edwin Harriman, who was called the “Railway King” of the United States, had suggested that the Manchurian Railway be developed through the joint management of Japan and the U.S. with the intention of creating an around-the-world transportation network over land and sea as an extension of transnational railroads.

However, the memorandum for the joint management, which was at one point agreed upon, was nullified partially because of the Treaty of Portsmouth. As a result, Japan refused to cooperate with the U.S and adopted isolationist policies. Although difficult to achieve with the prevailing international relations at that time, had Japan decided to cooperate with the U.S. to promote the development of Northeast Asia, it could have avoided the isolation that ensued and changed the course of history. There is no “if” in history, but it is valid to observe that an avenue by which war could have been avoided was in the public domain, as suggested by the article in Foreign Affairs.

After World War II, the United States supported Japan in both security and economy through its communist containment policy. This was triggered by an article published in Foreign Affairs by George F. Kennan, a young official at the U.S. Department of State. Titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” it outlined the likely Cold War structure of the globe, and, as a result, Northeast Asia, including Japan, was located in the Cold War system.  In the Cold War system, East and West would confront each other with a security framework based on a balance of power.

After operating for 50 years or so, the Cold War has ended and the world is constructing a post-Cold War geopolitical structure.  However, despite this overall trend, the Cold War system is still maintained through military tension that remains at the border of North and South Korea.  Even with these tensions, Northeast Asia has begun to experience constructive movements that have never been seen before, including a trend toward multi-national cooperation among Northeast Asian countries, the Sunshine Policy of South Korea, establishment of diplomatic relations between European Union countries and North Korea, and the Pyongyang Declaration by Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to North Korea. It is vital that a new system for regional stability be developed by taking advantage of the international environment surrounding the Korean Peninsula during this transitional period. We recognize that today’s world is at a transitional point to open a new period in history.

Security framework

Northeast Asia currently maintains security against potential adversaries through a system of balance of power security on the border that divides the two Koreas. This method prevents war by the balancing of power between adversarial nations, but potentially leads to armament build-up.  In East Asia, bilateral alliances were forged between the United States and countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand.  Currently, the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-South Korea alliances are the primary bilateral alliances in the region as a result of the gradual withdrawal of the U.S. military from Southeast Asia.  Although this means that security through the balanced-power system is still functioning in this region, it is considered to be an interim system of security.

According to the pattern of how security systems evolve, collective security follows the balance of power system. Under collective security, a group of nations collectively maintain peace militarily. The concept of collective security is antithetical to individual security and applies collective sanctions to settle conflicts among concerned member countries and regional groups. A typical example is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The United States currently intends to maintain regional stability in Northeast Asia through its missile defense scheme. A number of countries are concerned that the missile defense scheme forms a counterbalance effect and could lead to new military expansion. Japan supports the missile defense scheme based on the Japan-U.S. alliance but has some apprehension, while other Northeast Asian countries wish to distance themselves from it altogether. The idea of pursuing peace through the missile defense system belongs to the “collective security system.”

While Japan maintains peace based on the Japan-U.S. alliance, when we consider that Japan is also a part of Asia, it would also be desirable to build a “soft” security system based on multilateral cooperation with other Northeast Asian countries. That would require reducing the need for missile defense by developing a mechanism to foster trust in the region with the aim of creating a Northeast Asian Symbiotic Community. Building a symbiotic community, fostering trust and promoting partnerships requires various measures including advancing economic and social infrastructure development through economic cooperation and promoting the cooperation of citizens and NGOs, as well as encouraging networks of trade, investment and industry.  

While based on the Japan-U.S. alliance, Japan’s position must consider other Northeast Asian countries outside the missile defense scheme. Thus the ideal course for Japan in Northeast Asia would be to promote multi-lateral cooperation for economic development by negotiating with the U.S. to build a cooperative security system that covers the entire region. Being located in Northeast Asia, Japan needs to consider the overlapping interests of the U.S. and the region in establishing an original policy position that both the U.S. and Northeast Asia can appreciate and participate in.

The United States has so far placed its highest priority on military security and has continued with policies that do not emphasize economic cooperation. However, the U.S. announced it would increase its Official Development Assistance (ODA) at the UN Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002, and shift its policy to eliminate poverty as the root cause of terrorism.

Cooperative security

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced his Agenda for Peace in the early 1990s. This Agenda for Peace includes four elements: preventive diplomacy, peace-making, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. This agenda indicates that not only military actions but also non-military actions are important to build and maintain peace.

Northeast Asia is a region with such a high risk for conflict that preventive diplomacy should be actively promoted. The question is: just what measures should Northeast Asia take to facilitate preventive diplomacy, construct a system of cooperative security and promote regional stability?

Here we propose the idea that cooperative security builds upon the creation of symbiotic community. A symbiotic community in turn would be secured by human security, food security and energy security. It would also be linked with creating an economic bloc and an environmental symbiotic community in Northeast Asia.

So what are the ways to create a symbiotic and interdependent community? The United States and Japan are the two largest contributors of ODA. Japan should now review its international contributions and promote economic cooperation (ODA) in view of the fact that Northeast China, North Korea, Mongolia and Far East Russia do not have sufficient infrastructure to form a basic foundation for economic and social development. Economic cooperation is essential for developing the infrastructure of these regions. In particular, developing multilateral infrastructure across borders would create international public assets and would play a critical role in regional development.

The cooperation of NGOs and citizens would be important as well. Exchange within the region driven by citizens could lead to the creation of a symbiotic community in which confidence building and individuals’ concern for well-being beyond national boundaries would generate a synergistic effect to expand the circle of exchange.

The creation of an economic bloc also requires the promotion of trade and investment and the development of industrial networks. Trade and investment can be better promoted on a foundation of stability, but investment under interim stability has the effect of sustaining stability itself.  

Thus, promoting economic cooperation, industrial networks and cooperation of citizens in Northeast Asia has the potential to help build trust among countries and among people and to create a symbiotic community. Creation of a symbiotic community would then set up a framework for cooperative security and therefore bring about permanent stability to Northeast Asia.

The next most advanced stage of security framework is a cooperative security framework on the basis of economic cooperation.  If this region changes from a black hole to last frontier, it is possible to create a physical integration, economic cooperation and economic sphere. This cooperative security framework will be the ideal security mechanism in Northeast Asia.

Dr. Sadako Ogata of the Ford Foundation recently said human security is important in terms of encouraging person-to-person cooperation. Also, I think cooperative security and comprehensive security are important. Security has a lot of linkage between the military corrective security and cooperative security. All Japan has to promote is to realize  cooperative security while maintaining the U.S.-Japan security treaty. Probably Japan's military involvement in this region will be 20 or 30 percent, but a 70 percent effort should be concentrated on the cooperative security framework.

Towards physical integration


The grand design for Northeast Asia is aimed at generating stability and prosperity in the region, and it proposes to build a symbiotic community for achieving that goal. One way to build this symbiotic community is to promote physical integration within the region. The following items can be considered as measures to advance physical integration in Northeast Asia.

The first measure is to build a system of multinational infrastructure within the region as international public property. For maximum effectiveness and efficiency, the infrastructure necessary to enable steady regional development needs to be established beyond consideration of national boundaries. Such multilateral infrastructure should include transportation, energy supply, power sharing, and communication systems. To establish such an effective infrastructure at a national level is difficult; what needs to be done is to plan and implement a well-coordinated system for the whole Northeast Asia region.

The lesson we can learn in relation to such system development is that the railroad transport systems in Northeast Asia were planned and implemented at the national level, and this is now hindering the construction of an efficient rail system for the whole region.  For example, while the rail track width for Russia and Mongolia is 1,524 mm, for China and North Korea it is 1,435 mm. For this reason, transshipment is required between China–Mongolia, China–Russia, and North Korea–Russia, and this is an obstacle to integration of a regional transport system (combined tracks with four rails have been introduced in some border areas and access to ports has been improved). In building a multinational infrastructure system, we must aim at the construction of an integrated regional system that allows for the efficient use of people, goods and resources in the region.

The second measure is to design and develop the infrastructure facilities of different sectors in an integrated manner.  For example, it is more efficient to construct communication cables, power lines and natural gas pipelines in combination, so these facilities should be designed and implemented under a comprehensive regional infrastructure development plan.

The third measure is to achieve infrastructure integration through blanket development of certain areas and their communities. From this perspective, for example, the Tumen River comprehensive development plan can be reassessed and renewed with a new concrete plan.  Furthermore, other plans for regional integration include the integration of surrounding areas along development axes (e.g., creating and expanding feeder roads from trunk roads) and promoting strongholds of development that cut across international borders.

The fourth measure deals with the integration of the “soft” components of infrastructure. For example, when a new transport system develops, there is a need for immigration, customs and quarantine systems to be developed as well.  Moreover, what is called for is the development of an extensive public health and disease prevention system as well as an emergency medical system that can extend beyond national borders.

The fifth measure is the integration and coordination of research and development and capacity-building programs. In addition to promoting the industrial network and the development of the environmental network, the integration of capacity-building programs, such as higher education and technical and vocational training (including distance education via the Internet) may also be advanced.

Security and economic cooperation

As we combine the above measures and proceed with the physical integration of the region, we should also keep in mind that we are building a system that can be integrated with other outside regions since Northeast Asia is striving to become an "open” symbiotic community.

It is of paramount importance to further development in Northeast Asia by promoting cooperative security on the basis of multilateral economic cooperation, rather than building a collective security based on military-related activities.

It would be possible to draw the most effective plan on international public goods through physical integration. There is existing infrastructure, such as transportation corridors including railways and roads in Northeast Asia. According to conventional development measures such as the UNDP’s country program or Japanese ODA, these development plans have been created mainly on the basis of each country’s focus and priority. However as a new method of developing integrated physical infrastructure effectively, a spatial development plan, which is a comprehensive development plan rather than based on each sector’s   development, would be significantly more effective in Northeast Asia.

It would not be cost-effective, provided that various infrastructure plans, without integrating each infrastructure. In this context, it is indispensable to physically integrate infrastructure projects, in order to avoid a duplication or disconnection among the borders.  For example, construction of communication optical fiber would be consolidated with construction of natural gas pipelines, electric power lines and existing transportation corridors.

A regional project, such as the Tumen River Development Program, should be promoted for the purpose of not only developing a special economic region, but also facilitating regional integration. Through these regional projects, one can expect to effectively connect cities or special economic zones along borders.

Components of a physical integration

The first major component required for the physical integration of Northeast Asia is a transportation corridor. It is important to rebuild a transportation network that is currently disconnected across the borders. As confrontation in Northeast Asia has been continuing for a long time, there is a lack of smooth transportation. It would be possible to create global transportation networks by rebuilding the disconnected areas such as the borders to North Korea. It would be possible to complete an appropriate global network crossing the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan (the East Sea), Siberian land bridge and/or China land bridge, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The second major component is energy security. The Russian Far East reserves are abundant in natural resources, particularly natural gas, which is expected to be the most reliable energy for the 21st century. The Russian Far East holds approximately 30 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. For energy security, the Northeast Asia natural gas pipeline project, including the lines from North Sakhalin to Hokkaido, North Sakhalin to Khabarovsk to Kyushu through the Korean peninsula, Yakutsk to China, Irkutsk to Beijing through Mongolia, provides the following benefits in this region in terms of energy security.

Natural gas is the most environmentally friendly energy source. It contributes to reducing  acid rain problems in particular by increasing China’s dependence on natural gas than coal. The natural gas pipeline contributes to reducing the dependence on the Middle East, reducing the congestion of tankers crossing the Straits of Malacca. The natural gas pipeline, going through North Korea as a transit, contributes to increased confidence-building measures. A lesson learned during the Cold War in Europe shows that natural gas pipelines from Eastern Europe to Western Europe were never cut.

Northeast Asia needs mutual understanding and interdependence. However one of the major constraints for cooperation in this region is the lack of communication. It is expected that building a telecommunication network and promoting tourism development will help facilitate confidence-building measures through business, social and cultural exchanges.

Ideal development scenarios

The objective of the grand design is to create ideal development scenarios and also to create economic spheres like symbiotic communities we can share, while utilizing physical integration to build the national gas pipeline, international public transportation, telecommunication and so on. The largest hydropower dam at the Yalu River running between the border of North Korea and China was built more than 60 years ago and provides energy to North Korea and China.

As Japan had this kind of technology before the Second World War, I recommend bringing international public goods beyond the borders through multilateral cooperation. When we look at a picture of North Korea taken by satellite at night, we can see how North Korea is suffering from an energy crisis. The northern part of the Korean Peninsula is almost completely dark. We can see the constant light of international transportation corridors such as the Siberian railways.  There are nine major international transportation corridors in Northeast Asia.  But unfortunately, there are no appropriate connections beyond the borders.

Natural gas is the most environmentally friendly energy in the world. Russia and the Far East including west and east Siberia have 20 percent of the natural gas reserves in the world. China has been heavily dependent on coal for more than 70 percent of its energy. Therefore, we have been faced with serious environmental concerns such as acid rain or greenhouse effect. If China shifts from coal to natural gas, it is possible to solve the problem of this environmental issue. Today the natural gas pipeline is from Russian Far East, Mongolia, China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan.

There are two different types of multilateralism in Northeast Asia.  One includes China, Central Asia and Russia.  Another one is China and ASEAN through the overseas Chinese and the Tumen River Development Program led by the UNDP along the border of North Korea, the Russian Far East and China.  UNIDO is involved in this project. Japan and the United States are not keen to support this project because it is a communist-led project. A Cold War structure still remains in this region, and the two different types of projects should be integrated. A Northeast Asia natural gas pipeline project is an ideal multilateral project because all six nations of Northeast Asia would be able to share energy resources reciprocally. And also we can build a telecommunication network, an electric power grid and a tourist development project. This approach has become very cost effective.  Japanese ODA or UNDP country programs are based on the countries of priorities.  This is the problem in terms of duplication of hard infrastructure. It is better to have a spatial development project to connect border to border. We can create a cost effective project.

Proposal for a new international organization

How much does it cost to pursue this kind of large-scale project? It costs about  $10 billion per year in the next ten to twenty years to create this kind of project. Ten billion dollars is very expensive, but compare that to the cost of reconstruction in Iraq, which will cost $20 billion annually in the next several years. North Korea is the most dangerous country in the world.  North Korea is using a brinkmanship. The international community must maintain the position not to give in to North Korea’s blackmail. It's better to prepare the road map based on preventive diplomacy or cooperative security and spend $10 billion.

If North Korea becomes a member of international financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank,World Bank or European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London, these three existing international organizations can provide $1.5 billion and the Japanese bilateral or private sector or several private sectors from all over the world can provide probably $1 billion. As $10 billion is needed, there is a shortfall of about $6 or $7 billion. Therefore, we propose to establish a new international organization in this region.

A new international organization is not easy to build. We must understand that East Asia has the potential to become one of the three poles, along with the EU and NAFTA. The locations of most international organizations are in New York, Washington, DC, Paris, Geneva and Vienna. There are no large international organizations in Asia, only the Asian Development Bank, in Manila, ESCAP in Bangkok, and the United Nations University in Tokyo.

If China builds an international organization, the rest of East Asia will deteriorate. Therefore, the best way is to establish a new international organization, which is able to share three different functions while three major countries such as China, Japan and South Korea are able to share mutual interests. It needs three windows to cover three different functions such as development, social and monetary functions:

  • Establishing a window for the development funds in China as China will be a major donor country for the development of North Korea.
  • Establishing a social factor in South Korea as South Korea needs huge amount of money for the unification of the Korean Peninsula. 
  • Establishing monetary function in Japan because Japan is interested in stabilizing monetary functions from the experience of the East Asian financial crisis of 1997.

It is possible to establish one international organization called the East Asian Economic Social Development Organization with three different functions at three different locations.

A twelve-point agenda

In an attempt to introduce a “grand design” of providing for a peace in the region, I would like to make an analogy to John F. Kennedy’s “Towards a Strategy of Peace” speech of June 1963 with my Twelve Point Agenda, which I believe contains essential elements to bring about new regional cooperation, such as the need to create a new regional multilateral organization, to the present-day context.  There are also twelve factors in the design, including:

  1. Cooperative security framework based on economic interdependence
  2. Preventive diplomacy; multilateral progressive engagement posture
  3. Symbiotic communities
  4. Japan’s recognition of its history prior to World War II
  5. Physical integration, providing international public goods
  6. Energy security (e.g., natural gas pipelines and electric grids)
  7. International railroad corridors
  8. New regional international organization
  9. U.S.-Japan and U.S.-ROK alliances as cornerstones to stabilize the region and become a backbone of a multilateral framework
  10. Greater tolerance of religions
  11. Intra-regional dialogues
  12. Multilateral, progressive and constructive security posture


There exist three principal conceptual pillars that help accommodate these elements.  A first pillar is spatial development. It is to strengthen the exchange of international public goods by physically integrating transport systems, such as railroads.  A second pillar is physical integration. It aims to advance economic integration by connecting routes of economic interests—natural resources, communications networks, and transportation ties.  Finally, there is regional integration, in which a grand strategy attempts to integrate local economies and provide for special economic zones.

The key tactic is Strategic ODA (Official Development Assistance). I stated that this strategy is instrumental in setting forth preventive diplomacy, addressing human security, or initiating the establishment of a regional economic sphere, all added up to provide for cooperative security framework. Further, Japan, in close association with other key regional players, such as China and South Korea, can play a significant role in organizing consultative relationships with the United States and the European Union to put together a global development plan.

A grand design would likely bring about a win-win situation, from which every regional actor can benefit, and consequently the likelihood of conflict would be dramatically reduced, as the regional players would be forced to decrease their military expenditures.

Source: This article was revised from a paper presented at "Innovative Approaches to Peace and Stability in Northeast Asia: Focus on the Korean Peninsula," a conference held May 26-28, 2005, in Moscow, Russia, jointly organized by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace and the Russian Political Science Association.

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