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Examining the Reconciliation Dynamics in Northeast Asia: A System Level Approach Using Security Dilemma and Status Dilemma

Kwon, Bum Joon (권범준, Graduate School of International Studies, Sogang University)

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The post-Second World War interstate politics in Northeast Asia have shown complex characteristics of both security and status competition. Unlike the post-conflict interstate relations in other parts of the world, a central characteristic that has been quite peculiar to Northeast Asia has been the ...
The post-Second World War interstate politics in Northeast Asia have shown complex characteristics of both security and status competition. Unlike the post-conflict interstate relations in other parts of the world, a central characteristic that has been quite peculiar to Northeast Asia has been the persistent issue of historical reconciliation between states. By examining the different reconciliation dynamics observed in four different former enemy dyads in Northeast Asia, this thesis contends that the ongoing security tension in Northeast Asia is a result of different reconciliation dynamics observed in different dyadic relationships between former adversary states in the region. More specifically, this thesis places the concept of reconciliation at the center of the so-called “Asian Paradox,” and examines the interplay of security dilemma and status dilemma observed in different dyads to account for the varying degrees of interstate reconciliation in the region. Strategic incentives for historical reconciliation remain low when a dyad of former enemy states faces a heightened sense of both security dilemma and status dilemma. In contrast, a successful resolution of security dilemma and status dilemma creates the structural conditions conducive to historical reconciliation. The post-Second World War U.S-Japanese, Sino-Japanese, ROK-Japanese, and ROK-China relations are examined to test the hypothesis. The existing literature on interstate reconciliation focuses mostly on the first-level and second-level characteristics as independent variables, such as the role of domestic agents or the remembrance effects by former enemy states. No prior research exists to date that has examined the interstate reconciliation from the system level perspective. The findings in this research suggest that a system level explanation using the security-status dilemma model provides a systematic explanation that is both parsimonious and generalizable.