Asia-Pacific Conference Report

On November, 5-6, 2016 the 14th Asia Pacific Conference was held at Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University in Beppu. Kyushu University’s researchers Akihiro Iwashita, Jong Seok Park, Chisako Masuo, (as speakers), and Serghei Golunov (as a moderator and a discussant) took part in the panel “The Emerging Power Game in Northeast Asia”, organized by the Center of Asia-Pacific Future Studies. 

Akihiro Iwashita’s presentation “Russia in the Northeast Asia: Contraction or Expansion?” was focused on assessing Russia’s historical and present geopolitical role in Northeast Asia. While regarding to the past, expansion and contraction cycles in Russia’s policy towards the Northeast Asia could be observed, now the new expansion cycle doesn’t look much probable for the short-term run. Instead, Russia rather tries achieving balance of interests with other powers. The presenter highlighted some important trends in and perceptions of the current Russian-Chinese and Russian-Japanese relations. While Russian-Chinese relations are good and increasingly constructed as alliance in public representations, Russian-Japanese relations are complicated by territorial dispute. It would be very difficult both for Moscow and for Tokyo to make such concessions that would be both sufficient for another party and, at the same time, acceptable for the own country’s public.

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Jong Seok Park’s presentation “Dynamics and Prospect of North Korean Nuclear Issue in the Phase of China’s Rise” considered interests of the key actors involved in Korean Peninsula conflict (viz. of North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, and the USA) with special attention to Chinese interests. The North Korean choice to obtain nuclear weapon is represented as rational way to secure the regime’s survival while the USA, South Korea, and Japan have a straightforward goal to achieve Pyongyang’s denuclearization. At the same time, Chinese interests look less straightforward, as Beijing wants not only North Korean denuclearization but also blocking the U.S. expansion and preventing collapse of North Korea that has a long border with China. The presenter also discussed some scenarios under which the hypothetical U.S. withdrawal could prompt Japan and South Korea to obtain their own nuclear weapons.

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Chisako Masuo’s presentation “The Impact of Chinese ‘One Belt, One Road’ on Northeast Asia” paid special attention to Chinese “center-regions” relations in the context of implementing large-scale cross-border projects, such as “One Belt, One Road”. It is not easy for regions to obtain governmental support, as this support is typically provided on a competition basis. To be treated preferentially in Beijing, regions should not only meet all corresponding criteria but sometimes also to be proactive, as it was in the case of Guangxi province, specially highlighted in the presentation. Comparing with Guangxi province, Heilongjian, Jiling, and Liaoning provinces, that claim governmental support under the framework of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) project, are not much active and inventive.  Finally, the presenter assumed that the OBOR project is Beijing-centered so far while provincial governments do not have much room for significant autonomous actions.