On August 14, in the midst of the Obon Holiday break, the KUBS crew were in the office for the 8th Asia-Pacific Border Studies seminar. We were fortunate enough to welcome three speakers to share their thoughts with us on a number of issues relating to regionalism, security architecture, national strategy and popular geopolitics, and were treated to a fascinating discussion regarding the situation in Asia’s North East.
Our first speaker, David Welch (Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo), spoke to us on the topic of “Regional Order in Northeast Asia”. He offered a broad overview of a number of ‘regions’ present in the world today, providing a number of metrics through which to compare them, and spoke about the possibilities for regionalism involving Japan and its continental neighbors through the prism of ‘East Asia’. David was fairly down on the prospects for the emergence of an institutionalized regionalism within East Asia, a conclusion which also tallies with the findings of the NIHU-backed research group into North-East Asia, with which our Center is involved. It was interesting to reflect upon the nested and overlapping character of some of the regions picked out by David, and reflect upon their significance for the international situation in the future.
Our second speaker, Jaroslaw Janczak (European University Viadrina & Adam Mickiewicz University, and currently a research fellow at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University) spoke to us about the “Geopolitical models and Geostrategies of Russia in Eurasia”, focusing in particular on the various conceptions of the border being deployed at Russia’s eastern and western limits. As he noted, Russia’s post-Soviet situation has been characterized by various forms of borders coming into and winking out of existence, and that the structure of the current geopolitical situation has led Russia to behaving far more actively in the West, while appearing to adopt a clear ‘boundarization’ in the East. Appreciating this distinction visible at the extreme edges of the polity is of great value in attempting to analyze it as a single entity.
Our third speaker, Seung Hyok Lee (Department of Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), reflected on the “Challenge of the ‘North Korean factor’ to Japanese-South Korean Relations and Northeast Asia”. The central focus was the question of popular influence on the foreign policy process, and in particular how the images held within Japan and South Korea of the other’s relations with North Korea affected relations between the two in the 2000s. As he noted, it was significant that these seemed predetermined within a structural dynamic that continued to hold into the present.
The topics of the three talks complemented one another nicely, and provided plenty of fodder for the extensive discussion that occurred between the speakers and those in attendance. We thank all those in attendance and look forward to our next event soon.