In the last few years, the diplomatic and political situation in East Asia has greatly evolved. On the one hand, the key security challenge in the Korean Peninsula has flared up, with both tensions and chances of dialogue at both regional and international levels. On the other, with the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, the increasingly bold dynamism of China’s foreign policy has met a wide range of reactions from other Asian countries, sometimes raising concerns in Europe. As a consequence, the European Union has been trying to redefine its role in the security and development of East Asia, also in light of the publication of the EU Connectivity Strategy towards Asia in September 2018.
The Baillet Latour Chair of European Union-China Relations and the EU-China Research Centre, Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies, organised a seminar on 19 March 2019, gathering high-profile speakers from diplomacy and the academia to discuss the topic "The EU and East Asia: Diplomacy and Politics". Participation was reserved to the students of the College of Europe in order for them to fully interact with the panel of distinguished guest.
The speakers for the seminar were:
- Lizza BOMASSI, Deputy Director, Carnegie Europe;
- Dr Duncan FREEMAN, Research Fellow, EU-China Research Centre;
- Prof. Dr Tomoki KAMO, Vice-Chair of the Center for Contemporary Chinese Studies at Keio University, Tokyo;
- Prof. Dr Junya NISHINO, Director of the Center for Contemporary Korean Studies at Keio University;
- Dr Ramon PACHECO PARDO, KF-VUB Korea Chair;
- Ambassador Harry TSENG, Taipei Representative Office.
The aim of this seminar, which was chaired by Professor Jing MEN, was taking stock of the evolution that has occurred in the East Asian economic and security complex in the most recent years, particularly concerning the Korean peninsula and China’s activism with the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the EU’s perspectives in this region in line with its Connectivity Strategy towards Asia.
Thanks to a lively and insightful discussion between the speakers and the student audience, the seminar successfully sketched the current state of relations between the EU and East Asia, focusing on three main issues:
- Concerning the security challenge of the Korean Peninsula, it emerged that international negotiations have entered a second and more mature phase, where standoffs between the DPRK and the US like those at the end of 2017 are highly unlikely. Regional actors, such as the Republic of Korea, China and Japan, as well as non-regional actors like the EU and the UN thus have the chance to play constructive roles in facilitating dialogue towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
- Concerning the rise of China, it was noted that relations between Beijing and its regional neighbors are ameliorating, notably those with Tokyo. On the other hand, the EU has been taking a more assertive stance towards China. Nonetheless, Brussels should not underestimate China’s potential in contributing to regional and global stability, e.g. through its Belt and Road Initiative that arguably is compatible with the Western model of development.
- Concerning the EU action in this region, it was pointed out that the Connectivity Strategy constitutes an initial step, inasmuch as the Union can legitimately aim at sharing with Asian countries its expertise on infrastructure building, i.e. have them learn from both its successes and failures. Nonetheless, the EU’s action is still hampered by financial restraints that make it fall far from Asia’s growing need for infrastructure development. At the same time, connectivity always has political repercussions that should not be underestimated. For this reason, while firmly adhering to the One China Policy, the EU equally plays a great role in supporting the Taiwanese democracy.
For more information, please contact Joyce MARGETIC BASCHIERA.