International Relations in an Age of Volatility
Chapter 3: ASEAN’s elusive search for a role in East Asian international relations
One of the most intriguing features of discussions about Asian security is that for the better part of two decades there has been a set of distinctive differences in the understanding of the theory and practice of international relations in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. The previous two chapters demonstrated that in Northeast Asia regional relations are conceived in obviously power political terms. Whatever the contending claims of commentators about whether China’s rise is likely to be peaceful or not, the debate largely accepts that Northeast Asia is a theatre where regional states vie with each other to maintain their interests and influence. In Chapter 1 it was shown that US–China relations play out on a canvass of great power rivalry. These two states alternately conflict or accommodate depending on the issues at play. Elsewhere, Northeast Asia’s other main powers, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as Chapter 2 noted, maintain a wary, if not fearful, eye on China, anxious as to how its increasing power is likely to affect both bilateral relations and the regional balance as a whole. Likewise, the previous chapter illustrated the point by showing how both public and elite leadership opinion in these countries possess few illusions about the underlying tensions among states in the region.
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