Volume 2, 2000

The first year of the new millennium saw intense diplomatic activity in Asia. The year 2000 began with Kim Jong-il’s sudden appearance in the international spotlight, first through his visit to Beijing and then as a result of his historic summit in Pyongyang with ROK President Kim Dae-jung. The US and North Korea achieved a major diplomatic breakthrough with an exchange of high-level visits, including Secretary Albright’s visit to Pyongyang. Meanwhile, despite doubts about the sustainability of North-South détente following the June 15 summit, Seoul and Pyongyang made significant progress on diplomatic, economic, and military issues.

It was also a busy year for the Chinese on the diplomatic front. Presidents Jiang and Clinton held their final summit in Brunei on the sidelines of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting, where high-level military delegations were exchanged and Defense Consultative Talks mapped out plans for military exchanges and cooperation. In Southeast Asia, China signed long-term cooperation agreements with Laos and Cambodia, thus completing bilateral framework agreements with all ten ASEAN member countries. China and Vietnam signed an historic agreement demarcating maritime territory in the Gulf of Tonkin. In Northeast Asia, Premier Zhu’s visit to Japan facilitated an across-the-board review of outstanding issues. Meanwhile, regular leadership meetings and a projected record year for China-South Korea trade and tourism have provided momentum for upgrading the relationship to a “full-scale cooperative partnership.”

On the regional level, ASEAN Plus 3 (Japan, China, and South Korea) held its first foreign ministers meeting, portending a shift in emphasis from economics to a broader agenda. ASEAN defense chiefs took a tentative step toward greater cooperation with endorsement by the US Pacific Command. Trilateral coordination among the US, ROK, and Japan on North Korea continued in the form of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group. Of most interest was the growth of Japan-South Korea-China links, suggesting initial steps toward greater institutionalization of regional cooperation.

Various challenges persisted in the region, including threats to democratic stability – the attempts to remove sitting presidents in the Philippines and Taiwan, a ruling party near-coup in Japan, questions of eligibility in Thailand, and instability in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the US-Japan relationship seemed to lack a strategic framework that could mend issues over US bases and Defense Guidelines. US-Russia relations underwent a change in anticipation of new policies from the incoming Bush administration.