Understanding Regional Security Dynamics in Northeast Asia- Power, Interests, and Identity

Chung-in Moon, Yonsei University


Northeast Asia has emerged as the center of gravity in contemporary international relations, partly owing to China's rise and partly to its economic dynamism, over the past two decades. In understanding regional security dynamics in Northeast Asia, the (neo-) realist perspective has been dominant. Despite its rich analytical and empirical contribution, however, preoccupation with power and its distribution, blurred geographic focus, and built-in status quo bias have prevented the existing realist literature from capturing the new reality of the region. Outstanding trends toward liberal transition in terms of economic interdependence, shared liberal norms and principles, and expanding dense social and cultural networks as well as clashes of national identity and the politics of nationalism have presented a more complicated regional landscape. I argue that recent strategic uncertainty in the region notwithstanding, both realist pessimism anchored in the power transition thesis and constructivist skeptics framed around the clash of hostile nationalism have limited theoretical and empirical appeals. Salience of gains from cooperation and integration among regional actors in the context of market-driven regionalization and socio-cultural networks is likely to sustain the thrust of relative long peace that the Northeast Asian region has so far enjoyed.