Experts debate policy implications of Asian identities

Experts debate policy implications of Asian identities

How do Asia’s rising powers perceive their security environment and the role of theU.S. in regional politics? Have the divergent historical experiences of Asian countries shaped their identities and consequently the range of options they consider in their foreign policies? These questions were debated by an expert group of American and Asian scholars, as well as current and former government officials, at a recent Rising Powers Initiative conference held on April 16, 2012 inWashington,D.C.

Whereas Americans “have come to see security issues in predominantly military and coercive terms,” Asian countries may have a very different view, said Chas W. Freeman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. In his keynote address to the conference, Ambassador Freeman pointed out thatU.S. military presence in Asia “is only one aspect of national security and influence,” and that “concepts of both power and security in and aroundEurasia are far less uni-dimensional.”

Understanding these concepts of power and security has important implications for formulating policy and for exploring the possibilities of regional cooperation. For example, said former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, “In Korea there are two states and what both sides continue to see as a single nation. And this has played itself out very much inKorea’s foreign policy and domestic policy over the last several years.”

Altogether, the conference examined these questions with regard to India, Japan, South Korea, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The agenda, speaker biographies, and audio recordings of the presentations and discussions are available here. The conference was supported by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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