China, Japan and Regional Leadership in East Asia
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China, Japan and Regional Leadership in East Asia

Edited by Christopher M. Dent

This book considers themes, evidence and ideas relating to the prospects for regional leadership in East Asia, with particular reference to China and Japan assuming ‘regional leader actor’ roles. Key issues discussed by the list of distinguished contributors include: • the extent to which there is an East Asian region to lead • China–Japan relations • different aspects of Japan and China’s positions in the East Asia region • how the seemingly inexorable rise of China is being addressed within the region • how China and Japan have explored paths of regional leadership through certain regional and multilateral organisations and frameworks • the position of certain ‘intermediary powers’ (i.e. the United States and Korea) with regards to regional leadership diplomacy in East Asia. Invaluably, the concluding chapter brings together the main findings of the book and presents new analytical approaches for studying the nature of, and prospects for leadership in East Asia.
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Chapter 12: A Shrimp Among the Whales? Korea in the Northeast and East Asia Regional System

Christoph Bluth and Christopher M. Dent


Christoph Bluth and Christopher M. Dent 1. INTRODUCTION This chapter examines both the security and international political economy dimensions of Korea’s key position in the Northeast and East Asia regional system. For more than a century, Korea has been the focus of the geopolitical struggle between the Asia Pacific major powers, Russia, China, Japan and the United States. According to an old Korean saying, ‘a shrimp gets crushed to death in the fight between the whales’. As a small nation on the geopolitical fault-lines of Northeast Asia, Korea has suffered foreign occupation, devastating wars and division. The Korean Peninsula remains a critical factor in the future of the region. It is the one place in Northeast Asia where there continues to exist a serious threat of large-scale military conflict. At the same time, South Korea has some considerable status in the regional political economy of East Asia. It is the region’s third largest economy, one of its most advanced industrial states, has large conglomerated companies (the chaebol, such as Samsung) with considerable global reach and presence, and one of the world’s most skilled and educated workforces. New and dynamic developments in East Asian regionalism have provided South Korea with opportunities to exploit its middle power position in Northeast and East Asia, as well as act as an intermediary between Japan and China, especially in Northeast Asia’s emerging trilateral cooperation framework. While South Korea may lack various forms of capacity to exercise regional leadership in a singular independent...

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