Asan Plenum

A. Northeast Asian Security Architecture

As the strategic situation in Northeast Asia continues to evolve, policymakers confront numerous challenges and crises. North Korea’s nuclear program continues to threaten the Korean Peninsula. Maritime disputes among China, Japan and South Korea have at times set the region on edge. While the potential for tension between China and Taiwan appears to have abated in recent years, including with the re-election of President Ma Ying-Jeou, the Cross-Strait dispute seems at best to be in a holding position. The Obama administration’s declared intention to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region suggests that the United States will seek to play a more significant role in the region, but given America’s economic troubles and the prospect of diminished defense budgets, it remains uncertain what role the United States will play in protecting regional security. This panel will adopt a regional perspective on Northeast Asian security and consider ways to address some of the most pressing issues confronting the region.

B. Is China Prepared for International Leadership?

The growth of Chinese power increasingly dominates economic and strategic discourse in the United States and across the Asia-Pacific region. Some observers foresee a longer-term Sino-American rivalry for regional or even global predominance, but the realities of China’s ongoing political, economic, and military transition convey a much more complex and uncertain picture. How do Chinese leaders and thinkers envision the country’s future, and is China on a trajectory to realize various aspirations and possibilities? What factors will shape China’s capacity to fulfill larger goals? Do China’s current relations with the region provide insights into the kind of global citizen China might ultimately become?

C. Leadership Changes and Their Implications for Security in Northeast Asia

For Northeast Asia, 2012 is a year of transition. The DPRK and Russia have already undergone this transition, China will have a new leader by the end of the year, and South Korea and the United States will hold elections near the end of the year. Judging by Japan’s track record it would be no surprise to see a new face in Tokyo in 2012 as well. These transitions take place in an increasingly complex Northeast Asia, and will have important implications for security in the region. This panel brings together both Chinese and American experts to analyze how these leadership transitions will impact the policy orientation of each of these major players with regard to major power relations, maritime territorial disputes, and nuclear nonproliferation, among others.

D. Leadership Transitions in the Two Koreas

The death of Kim Jong-il in December 2011 and ensuing succession by his son Kim Jong-eun have revived longstanding debates over the future viability of the North Korean regime. The uncertainty over North Korea’s future is further exacerbated by the upcoming presidential election in South Korea in December of this year. This panel will seek to define the range of possible change on the Korean peninsula, from business as usual to fundamental shifts in the strategic environment. It also identifies likely game changers in inter-Korean relations that are likely to materialize under the new leaders in Pyongyang and Seoul.

E. Nuclear Crisis in Northeast Asia

Today, Northeast Asia is facing the specter of nuclear disaster. Since its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1993, North Korea has posed a serious threat to peace and stability in Northeast Asia through its growing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Furthermore, in March 2011, the tragic Fukushima accident generated serious concerns about the safety of peaceful nuclear energy. How should Asian countries evaluate their nuclear energy programs in light of the Fukushima disaster and the risks of nuclear proliferation? Are there new measures that states and regional or international organizations can adopt to reduce the risk of another nuclear tragedy? How are leaders approaching nuclear weapons and nuclear energy in light of these risks?

F. Japan’s Nuclear Crisis

The 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima has left Japan with formidable challenges. Following the disaster, the government has implemented a number of bold policies to help recover from the damage. Given Japan’s long stagnation, might the disaster provide the push needed for Japan to rise again? This panel evaluates Japan’s recovery efforts and new government policies to prevent a recurrence of Fukushima. It also examines the broader impact of Fukushima on Japanese politics, the kind of leadership needed to extricate Japan from its long stagnation, and the role of international actors in the post-Fukushima recovery.

G. “It’s Complicated”: Making Sense of China’s Relationships with the Two Koreas

China adds further complexity to the already fraught relationship between North and South Korea. While relations between China and North Korea have been stretched thin over the latter’s nuclear provocations and refusal to implement economic reforms, China also fears the consequences of sudden regime change in Pyongyang. China’s uncomfortable position has also complicated its relations with South Korea, particularly after the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Yet, at the same time, China will likely be an indispensable part of any solution to the crisis between the two Koreas. This panel will examine China’s role in the Korean Peninsula conflict and its relations with both Koreas. What productive actions might China, South Korea and their partners in the Six Party Talks take to restart the moribund negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal? And how might the unfolding relationship between Beijing and Washington impinge upon diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula?

H. Leadership Transition in China

At the 18th National Party Congress in October 2012, it is widely anticipated that Xi Jinping will replace Hu Jintao as Secretary General of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s highest decision-making body. Li Keqiang is expected to take Wen Jiabao’s place as Premier, and around 200 of the 350 members of China’s Central Committee are slated to retire, along with seventeen members of the twenty-five member Politburo, the congress’s governing body, and up to seven members of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, thereby making way for a younger generation of Chinese politicians. In addition, these changes in the upper echelons of power in China will be accompanied by massive personnel shifts at the provincial and local levels. What might these new personalities and power dynamics mean for the future of China’s leadership?

I. Humanitarian Crisis in North Korea

Every year thousands of North Koreans cross the border to flee the most isolated country in the world. However, a better future for them is not guaranteed. While the humanitarian crisis in North Korea has created a significant number of refugees and internally displaced persons, coordinated efforts among governments and non-governmental organizations are lacking. This panel will analyze the current situation of the humanitarian crisis in North Korea and discuss the kind of leadership necessary to address this issue from the perspective of human security and suggest how to effectively distribute relief to internally displaced persons in North Korea.