last issue may be of overwhelming importance to the overall security
situation in the region, as we can now begin to discuss how East Asian
security might look after the last vestige of the cold war is put to
rest. This, in turn, led to questions about the future status of the
alliance system in the region and the possible move to greater
multilateral security cooperation in East Asia generally, and Northeast
Asia, in particular.
The U.S.-Japan Relationship
In Japan and through much of Southeast Asia the U.S.-Japan relationship is seen as indispensable to regional security. That said, there was some concern among participants that the United States might turn away from Asia, particularly if the U.S. economy continues to weaken. There was a perceived need for the U.S. to consider the peace of the region as in its own national security interests. However, even for those that looked positively toward the role of the U.S.-Japan security alliance there was cause for concern. For example, it has become increasingly important to address the sentiments of the Okinawan people, whose best interests have been sacrificed for the sake of national security. This was evidenced by the disproportionate presence of U.S. forces (1 percent of the Japanese population hosting 75 percent of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan) in Okinawa.
In this panel, the issue that received the most discussion, however, revolved around the question of a possible amendment to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and whether this would be a positive contribution to regional peace and stability. Article 9 states that aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish this aim, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained and the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. As such, an amendment to this article would allow Japan to field offensive forces, both conventional and nuclear. Some participants from Southeast Asian nations said this would be a disaster. Memories of Japanese aggression in the Pacific War were still vivid, and a militarized Japan could lead to a devastating arms race in the region. Others believed that the impact would be minimal and that Japan had a right to become a normal country. Instead, these conferees argued that the concern among many countries in the region now focuses on China. However, it was further suggested that the entire issue of amending Article 9 was academic, as there existed no public support in Japan for the requisite constitutional change. The original question stemmed from perceived U.S. desires for a more assertive Japan. This resulted in statements suggesting that the relationship between Japan and the U.S. is unequal, and, in fact, the U.S. was not looking to share leadership in the region, rather, it was simply looking to Japan to share the monetary costs of leadership in the region. If this is the case, the onus rests with the U.S. to share real leadership capacity with Japan.
The Korean Peninsula
Is the cold war on the Korean Peninsula coming to an end? Are we seeing the first steps toward reunification? While most participants would not go so far as to suggest that reunification was imminent, they were overwhelmingly of the mind that over the last few years, and more specifically over the last year, we have seen major movements in the right direction on the Korean Peninsula. These include:
While, these efforts have moved the relationship in directions unforeseen just a few years ago, there are still many obstacles to be overcome:
While most believed that the situation on the Korean Peninsula
and peace in the region is the work of the two Koreas and the powers that be (United States, China, Japan, and
Russia), there were those that separated the two issues. These participants believed that Korean reunification
needs to be handled only by North and South Korea, while peace in the region was the work of all countries.
The discussion of Southeast Asia focused largely on the situation in Indonesia and the role of ASEAN in the region, but also included brief discussions on the role of Australia, New Zealand, and Islam. The discussion on Indonesia stressed that despite what one sees in the popular press, Indonesia is not on the edge of collapse. That said, there is a need to understand better the size, diversity, and vast population of Indonesia in order to comprehend its political, social, and economic situation. For example, conferees viewed Indonesia as a pluralistic society, which over the last 30 years has been entirely focused on economic development at the expense of social and political development. Indonesia's transition to democracy will be long and difficult. In the past, Indonesia has dealt with its internal cohesion problems by sending in troops. This culture of violence needs to be changed. There was a call to train and supply Indonesia's security forces for the protection of the populace, something that the United States needs to address, as the U.S. had cut off ties to Indonesia's National Defense Forces (TNI).
As the most populous and diverse country in Southeast Asia, the importance of Indonesia and its stability was seen as not only vital to the unity of the Indonesian state but its leadership was also seen as crucial to the successful functioning of ASEAN. ASEAN was largely viewed as an over-30-years success story. It has survived the 1997-98 economic crisis and was integrating its economies through AFTA. At the same time, it was driving important regional vehicles such as ARF and ASEAN + 3.
There was also some discussion of the role of Australia and New Zealand in East Asia. While acknowledging that they might not be Asian countries, it was also recognized that their interests and fortunes were inextricably linked to those of East Asia.
Finally, the role of Islam was brought to bear on the discussion. One participant suggested that there was a growing role for Islam in the politics of Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia. However, unlike exclusionary forms of Islam found elsewhere, this form of Islam was suggested to be inclusive, and thus not a threat to democracy or capitalism in the Asia-Pacific region. It was therefore important for the Williamsburg Conference to engage the region's Muslim intellectuals.
The Future of Multilateral Institutions
Much of the discussion in this area focused on ASEAN, ARF, and ASEAN + 3. Participants agreed that the ARF should be nurtured and encouraged to make the transition from confidence building to preventive diplomacy. Participants also felt that the ASEAN + 3 process could contribute to peace in East Asia.