Asan Plenum

Is resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue a necessary or sufficient condition for achieving a Northeast Asian Security Architecture? Given other critical issues examined by this panel, a miraculous solution to the North Korea problem would not in itself resolve the region’s institutional challenges. However, it is difficult to envision a truly functioning regional security architecture without a working answer to the North Korea question. Institutions among the security actors in the region remain underdeveloped largely because of the lack of shared strategic vision for the Korean Peninsula. Even while Northeast Asia outperforms other regions economically, it underperforms in terms of architecture because North Korea is such a source of distrust. South Korea, China, Japan and the United States need much deeper strategic understanding about sharing the benefits of a peaceful peninsula, and sharing the costs of possible contingencies. This is obviously not going to happen overnight, but should be a goal when dealing with external provocations and domestic politics. A “critical juncture” will likely be necessary before overlapping and sometimes competing institutions can be welded together; the resulting architecture will be more effective and less costly if a foundation of trust is laid in advance.