Volume 3, 2001

Although the first eight months of 2001 were certainly not uneventful, the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent declaration of a global war on terrorism by the US noticeably affected relationships across the region. On the whole, these events strengthened allies and brought together others. Cooperation against terrorism and the successful meeting between US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the Asia Pacific Economic Council Leaders’ Meeting in Shanghai highlighted US-China relations. Also, after 15 years of negotiations, China finally joined the World Trade Organization, bringing a market of 1.3 billion people into the global trading system; Taiwan also acceded into the WTO. South Korea’s alliance responsibilities, Bush administration rhetoric, and North Korea’s reactions complicated and altered security relations on the Korean Peninsula. The global war against terrorism and the Taliban government in Afghanistan continued to galvanize US-Russia relations and gave it a newfound purpose. Differences over issues like the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and missile cuts were smoothed over as a united front in the war against terrorism was presented. Moscow and Beijing actively coordinated their policies for the US-led anti-terrorism war.

South Korea gave a measured but helpful response to the war in Afghanistan. North Korea reacted to the hardened US rhetoric and perceived military build-up on the Peninsula as a threat of attack and began ratcheting up its anti-US rhetoric accordingly. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro delivered on an unprecedented package of measures to support the US-led campaign against terrorism. US-Japan-ROK trilateral coordination proceeded apace with US prosecution of the war against terrorism. Enthusiastic endorsement characterized the Philippine response as well as more quiet backing from Singapore. Thailand’s support was slower and more tentative. Both Indonesia and Malaysia, while deploring the Sept. 11 attacks on the US, tempered their sympathy with warnings that the US not target Islam generally. Most of these reactions can be explained by the domestic politics of each state and the Muslim proportions of their respective populations.

Friction between countries persisted on issues of long-standing controversy. The US and China clashed over human rights, nonproliferation, missile defense, and Taiwan. The US continued its vows to push forward with the development of a missile defense system despite protests from Russia. Japan’s relations with China faltered after Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi’s Aug. 13 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. Trade frictions continued between the US and Japan. The renewal of US-Pakistan ties in their wake and subsequent India-Pakistan tensions clouded the horizon of US-India relations.