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EU-Japan Roundtable on East Asian Security

EU-Japan Roundtable on East Asian Security

16 February 2012

EU-Japan Roundtable on East Asian Security

Together with FRIDE and the Japanese Mission to the EU, the EU-Asia Centre organised on 16 February an expert roundtable on ‘East Asia Security – Views of Japan and the EU’ .

Toyohisa Kozuki, Deputy Director General for European Affairs, MFA, Tokyo, said that the security situation in East Asia was unpredictable and rapidly changing. It was important that China, which was strengthening its power projection capability, played a constructive role in the region. The recent changes in the North Korean leadership also raised uncertainty. On the positive side progress had been made in strengthening contacts via the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. Confidence building was essential and there was a rich agenda to pursue including maritime cooperation and disaster management. Japan favoured open and multi-layered networks based on international law with countries in the region. The alliance with the US remained vital for Japan’s security but it was also a public good for the region. To tackle the many new global and regional security threats there needed to be closer cooperation between Europe and Asia.

Gerhard Sabathil, Director for Northeast Asia, EEAS, said that the future of the EU was directly linked to developments in Asia. The EU’s trade with East Asia (28%) now exceeded transatlantic trade (23%). The EU’s strategic interests were best served by a stable, prosperous and internationally open Asia-Pacific region. The EU would continue to support regional integration, strengthen its political, economic and security engagement and seek to enhance cooperation on global issues.  There was a rich agenda for cooperation including counter-piracy, maritime security and cyber-security, climate change, non-proliferation, development assistance and fighting human trafficking. The EU also had considerable experience to offer Asian countries in their efforts to promote regional integration.

In the first panel on maritime security, Tetsuo Kotani, Okazaki Institute, Tokyo, and Elena Atanassova-Cornelis, University of Leuven, discussed the geopolitical aspect of maritime security against the background of a more assertive Chinese posture.  Fraser Cameron, EU-Asia Centre, and Gauri Khandekar, FRIDE, argued that there was no legal solution to the South China Sea disputes. There needed to be a lengthy period of pragmatic cooperation and trust building to bring about a political agreement. The EU had some relevant experience to offer. In the second panel on political and economic security in East Asia Tsutomu Kikuchi, Aoyama-Gakuin University, discussed the changing international political economy in East Asia and analysed different national strategies. The most pressing security issues in the region were proliferation of WMD, territorial and maritime disputes and the US commitment to East Asia. Glyn Ford, former MEP, emphasised the growing inter-dependence between Europe and Asia especially in the trade field. One should see the North Korean threat in perspective. It was often used by Japan to justify a missile defence system, aimed more at China than North Korea. Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, ECIPE, said that the EU was desperate to tap into Asian financial markets. He cautioned against attempts to contain China. There was a strong mutual interest in China becoming a responsible global actor. Mario Telo, ULB, pointed to the many similar views between the EU and Japan. China was the number one trading partner for every country in East Asia. This should lead to greater predictability and stability.

In the discussion there was much debate about the merits of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and whether it would receive domestic approval in the US and Japan. Some Asian ambassadors urged the EU to be more visible in Asia, including summits. There was questioning of the continued relevance of the EU model following the sovereign debt crisis. One expert raised the dilemma of the EU trying to navigate between its normative principles and material interests. Another expert questioned whether the EU had the will and resources to commit to a deeper engagement with Asia.

Ambassador Norio Maruyama concluded the meeting by pointing to the many similar interests between the EU and Japan. These included freedom of navigation, rules-based solutions, disaster management, and developing multilateral frameworks, including China. The EU had useful experience with capacity building such as law enforcement and CSDP civilian missions that could be deployed in Asia.

Event Programme