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JPI PeaceTalk
Subject Northeast Asian Maritime Order and Regional Security Cooperation: Looking for "Cooperation Spirals" & Peace (Prof. Geoffrey TILL)
Author JPI  (admin)
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  Prof. Geoffrey TILL(2).JPG  (104KByte)
2016-10-13 오후 5:01:44





[2016-5]




Prof. Geoffrey TILL discusses Northeast Asian Maritime Order and Regional Security Cooperation: Looking for "Cooperation Spirals" & Peace




[Northeast Asian Maritime Order and Regional Security Cooperation: Looking for "Cooperation Spirals]


Q1. Northeast Asia is facing a variety of maritime issues, such as North Korea’s proliferation of submarines and more regional maritime natural disasters than ever. What do you think about maritime order in Northeast Asia and regional security cooperation?

One should not be so focused on the tactical issues that divide countries, but should think of the bigger picture. The overall balance of the situation is one of cooperation: the high levels of economic interdependency and mutual interests in countering terrorism, fishing dispute, climate change, and pollution. The smaller picture—including disputes in the South China Sea—should be thought of as a tactical issue.

Q2. What do you think should be South Korea's role and strategy in Northeast Asia in terms of Asia's new order and cooperative leadership?

This is obviously an issue for the South Korean people and their government to resolve themselves, but simply as an outsider it seems that South Korea has something of an identity issue in two different ways. First, it needs to answer whether it is the bottom half of a single country. Thinking through its strategy of unification may be the most important issue it faces.
Secondly, as a more general issue, South Korea does not have the international clout or global impact that having one of the biggest and most successful economies of the world would warrant. I think this means there is still an issue to be resolved between Korea, the United States, China, and Japan. Korea needs to think very seriously about what it wants its role to be. Is it going to be so preoccupied with its role on the Korean peninsula that it neglects its global and regional possibilities?
It seems that the Global Korea idea advanced in the past is actually the right way to go. Of course it has to be concerned with its peninsular security, but there are wider issues and Korea deserves to be part of the debate, part of the conversation.


[On Peace]


Q1. Jeju was declared as an “Island of World Peace” by the government in 2005. In the context of the “Northeast Asian Maritime Order” and to elaborate more on an “Island of World Peace,” what do you think of Jeju’s role and its strategy that is being led by both the governmental and private sectors?

There’s a very important aspect of international relations which is driven by momentum, by the habits of cooperation and institutional creations. They develop an identity of their own. I’d point, as an example, Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue, which started in just the same way that the Jeju Forum started: simply an idea for an occasional gathering for high-level leaders. But it becomes part of the routine of diplomatic leaders coming together. It can come to not only reflect policy, but also have a way of driving policy. It acts as a catalyst to foreign policy making.
The Jeju Forum is an ideal alternative route to doing that sort of thing that is particularly relevant to Northeast Asia. There is an inevitable focus of the Shangri-La Dialgoue to Southeast Asia, and it seems holding a similar occasion like this in Northeast Asia has huge potential.
There is an issue, though, of what the relationship between government and private interests should be. Generally speaking, I would argue that the more focused an activity like this, the greater its success. I do see a danger that the forum’s perspective is trying to cover too much. If it focuses on the security angle, it may be much more familiar territory. I understand the argument that it spread the agenda for all sorts of reasons, but that’s something that the organizers should think about.

Q2. How will multilateral talks such as the Jeju Forum contribute to peace promotion?

Part of the argument for bilateral talks is about ease. Too many interests and you have problems of identifying the agenda and you have practical problems of organizing the conference. In theory, multilateral is better, but there should be limits. There is some advantage of focusing not only the subject area, but also the participants. It seems that the obvious first priority should be countries in Northeast Asia, and include others as necessary. I wouldn’t extend involvement much further.

Q3. What role might think tanks play in peace promotion?

Think tanks can suggest ideas because they’re free of government control. They can focus on specific issues and can come up with ideas and make them public, introduce them to a wider audience than governments are able to do. Of course, research organizations within government are capable of coming up with ideas. But the freedom to express those ideas produced within the government might contain a political baggage.
If an internationally recognized, prestigious think tank comes up with ideas, if it establishes something like the Jeju Forum in which those ideas can be discussed with people from other think tanks and other governments, then it contributes to the atmospherics of producing the idea and demonstrating a willingness to talk about ideas that might be too sensitive for governments to raise.
Another advantage is consistency. South Korea is a clear-cut democracy. Consistency of policy over time is not something that you can guarantee in a democracy, and think tanks help keep policy ideas consistent.

Q4. Do you have any ideas on how to promote peace by educating the public and the next generations?

In theory, I get the importance of including young people in discussions like this one. But we must not allow the students to leave the discussions with the idea that there are easy solutions to these issues. I would be hesitant about the kind of public discussion we let school children or young university students hear, especially if it was too optimistic or pessimistic. The message one should try to get out goes back to the point about complexity. If education the public is important—and it is in a democracy in order to make good decisions—it’s important to get it out that these are complicated issues.

Q5. Do you have any ideas on developing maritime-related research programs in the future?

It seems to me there’s a program of tourist visits that are attached to the conference, and I think that’s an admirable idea because it is a way adding a wider agenda to the program. But other issues—such as climate change and pollution, looking after the sea, and attending to the maritime environment—can be added into the overall package with a visits program aimed at the strategic issues and aimed at a wider picture. One role that Jeju Island could develop is to do that in a more focused way, rather than arranging only tourist visits.



 * Prof. Geoffrey TILL is a professor of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.




Prof. Geoffrey TILL emphasized the importance of looking at the context of the security situation in Northeast Asia rather than getting mired in tactical discussions. The overall balance of the situation, he says, is one of cooperation: the high levels of economic interdependency and mutual interests in countering terrorism, fishing dispute, climate change, and pollution. The smaller picture—including disputes in the South China Sea—should be thought of as a tactical issue.
Multilateral dialogue and think tanks have a special role to play in refocusing such policy and strategy considerations. Institutionalized high-level discussions such as the Shangri-La Dialogue or the Jeju Forum aid international relations. Prof. TILL observed that these forums can come to not only reflect policy, but also have a way of driving policy.
The Jeju Forum is an ideal alternative route to doing that sort of thing that is particularly relevant to Northeast Asia. Think tanks can focus on specific issues and can come up with ideas and make them public, introduce them to a wider audience than governments are able to do. Going forward, Prof. TILL recommends focusing the subject and participants of the Forum and readjusting the program to address specific strategic issues aimed at a wider context. 





* Interviewed on May 26, 2016 (Jeju Forum 2016)
Posted on October 13, 2016