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Vladimir Nelidov

Lecturer, Department of Asian and African Studies, MGIMO University, Research Fellow, Center for Japanese Studies, RAS Institute of Oriental Studies, RIAC Expert

The three nations of Russia, Japan, and the United States face common security challenges in Northeast Asia. The nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula remains the most pressing among these. Despite the recent positive developments, its long term solution remains far from guaranteed. The task of accommodating the growing China’s influence is another challenge to be dealt with by the three powers.

The global context of deteriorating relations between Russia, on the one hand, and the U.S. and its Western allies, on the other, further complicates the situation in the region. Nevertheless, despite their differing national security agendas, Russia, Japan, and the U.S. do have substantial overlapping interests, and cooperating on these would be beneficial for each of the three nations as well as for the entire region.

The three nations of Russia, Japan, and the United States face common security challenges in Northeast Asia. The nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula remains the most pressing among these. Despite the recent positive developments, its long term solution remains far from guaranteed. The task of accommodating the growing China’s influence is another challenge to be dealt with by the three powers.

The global context of deteriorating relations between Russia, on the one hand, and the U.S. and its Western allies, on the other, further complicates the situation in the region. Nevertheless, despite their differing national security agendas, Russia, Japan, and the U.S. do have substantial overlapping interests, and cooperating on these would be beneficial for each of the three nations as well as for the entire region.

Practical Recommendations

To maintain peace, security, and strategic stability in Northeast Asia from the viewpoint of the Russia-Japan-U.S. triangle, the following measures and steps could be recommended:

1. On the Korean issue, and in the short term-perspective, Russia needs to encourage and support all attempts at dialogue between Pyongyang and Seoul/Washington. With situation in constant flux, and both the North Korean and the American leaders being prone to provocative and potentially dangerous actions, no chance at reconciliation must be wasted.

2. Should the dialogue with North Korea prove possible to maintain, the United States should strive to upgrade their contacts with North Korea from leader-to-leader bilateral talks to a more multilateral and institutionalized format. A return to the six-party talks, probably, under a different name, is one possibility. A new format with a different list of participants, but that would still include the key regional stakeholders, Russia and Japan among them, is another one.

3. The United States and Russia should make utmost effort to overcome the vicious circle of distrust, accusations, pressure, and threats that is building up between them, and the political will necessary for this must be exercised by both sides. At the very least, Moscow and Washington should not let this negative dynamic influence the prospects of their cooperation on the issues of security in Northeast Asia.

4. The potential resumption of talks on the Korean issue should be used as an opportunity for increasing dialogue between Russia and the United States as well, with the prospect of turning this ad-hoc format into a comprehensive regional collective security framework.

5. The existing multilateral frameworks, such as the East Asia summit, or G20, should be used to the maximum to further cooperation on vital security issues.

6. To preserve the achievements of the Russo-Japanese rapprochement and to expand them into the domain of security, further confidence-building measures need to be undertaken by Moscow and Tokyo. This could include deepening the exchanges between the militaries and law enforcement agencies, conducting joint exercises, or widening the agenda of top-level meetings to include a wider scope of regional issues.

7. Japan needs to be careful to ensure the preservation of its exclusively defenseoriented posture. The desire to respond to new challenges by moving in the direction of a “normal country” is understandable. However, excessive actions in this area may cause a security dilemma, wherein Tokyo’s efforts will serve to trigger a regional arms race and thus diminish, rather than increase the nation’s security.

8. Finally, creating conditions for China becoming a cooperative and responsible power should be one of the top priorities of all regional states concerned. For the United States and Japan, it would mean not trying to contain or exclude China, and being open and responsive to its initiatives and legitimate claims. For Russia, it would mean continuing to maintain friendly and cooperative relations with Beijing, while keeping a reasonable distance and not committing itself to this cooperation – neither in words nor in deeds – to such an extent that this effectively becomes an anti-U.S. pact.

The allure of securing a powerful ally is, again, understandable, but, in the long run, the return of bloc thinking is going to be detrimental to the entire international community.

Regional Security in Northeast Asia and the Russia–Japan–U.S. Triangle, 1.4 Mb


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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
 
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