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Report - 7th NATO-Asia Pacific Dialogue 2017

19 October 2017

On 17th October 2017, NATO’S Public Diplomacy Division, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, organised the 7th NATO Asia Pacific Dialogue held within the premises of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) in Brussels.


In her welcoming remarks, NATO Deputy Secretary General Honorable Rose E. Goettenmoeller underscored the necessity for NATO to develop partnerships with Asia-Pacific region to address common challenges in the context of growing interdependence between Asia and the rest of the world. The visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Asia in two weeks’ time will be a fitting opportunity to explore the avenues of cooperation between NATO and Asian stakeholders on security challenges.


The roundtable discussion that followed created space for insightful exchanges of views between the Head of Department of Politics at the University of Otago (New Zealand) Professor Robert Patman, the Vice Dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University (China) Professor Shen Ding Li and Japanese National Defence Academy Professor Matake Kamiya. With the help of the ATA Secretary General Jason Wiseman who moderated the debate, they discussed the ways to create predictability in Asian and European security dynamics.


Mr Jason Wiseman gave a broad overview of the current challenges to the political and security landscapes in Asia and Europe, prompting the NATO to step up its engagement in Asia-Pacific. He also emphasized the contribution of key Asian partners to NATO’s operations.


Professor Robert Patman challenged the commonly held view of the return of great power politics in the 21st century. While they still follow hegemonic trends, great powers are more vulnerable in the new millennium. Their increased vulnerability is due to the growing interdependence between stakeholders on the international stage. He called for a strengthened and more resilient United Nations Security Council to secure peace; his plea was echoed by the next panellist.


Professor Shen Ding Li saw international law and organisations as instrumental in addressing unpredictability. He suggested that the European experience should be duplicated in Asia, for instance by creating a pan-Asian regional security framework. He then shared his views on China’s successes and failures to use international and regional rules-based frameworks to tackle regional security challenges, such as the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean file and the negotiations towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Professor Shen underlined China’s willingness to fill the void left by US withdrawal from international commitments. However, in order for China to become a leader, it needs other countries to sustain its leadership.


For Professor Matake Kamiya, alliances between liberal democratic partners are key to predictability, as shown by NATO in Europe and US-Japan alliance in Asia and to counter the siren songs of counter-globalisation. According to him, the post-World War II rules-based order is now put to the test by key stakeholders, namely North Korea, Russia and China. In this regard, when the US under Trump questions its commitment to security alliances because of their cost, it not only threatens its leadership in the world. America’s withdrawal from its leadership position could also deal a serious blow to the international order. Yet, the power vacuum would have to be filled, or else it would be a disaster, as any order has to be supported by a leader.


During the Q&A, the Chinese and Japanese panellists elaborated on the progress and prospects for China-Japan relations in light of their historical disagreements. Progress in the bilateral relations in the last few years was highlighted and no major disputes have been reported in the last few years. Both countries have agreed to establish direct lines of communication between the two militaries. While it showed limited success, the existence of a joint committee to review history set up between China and Japan to review the historical facts that occurred in 1937 needs to be acknowledged.