Commemorative Lecture

"Dynamism and Security in Northeast Asia"

Picture Per Pinstrup-Andersen

Don Oberdorfer
  • Journalist/Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins University's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

These are dynamic times in Northeast Asia, where fundamental changes bearing on national and international security are underway in Japan, China and the two Koreas. The foreign policies and the regional relationships of each of these countries is likely to appear quite differently six years at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, six years from now. A brief sketch of the shifts in sight: Japan: Gripped by North Korean missile and nuclear programs, giving increased priority to national security and scope of military efforts. A nation of evolutionary change, it is moving cautiously but clearly toward constitutional revision to cast off some restraints while still uncomfortable with the use of force and reliant on the U.S. alliance. China: Undergoing very rapid change, internally and externally, for a quarter of a century. Always the geographic center of Asia, it is increasingly central to the economies and international relations of the region. While still facing daunting problems at home, it has been turning outward economically and diplomatically. A most serious cloud on the horizon continues to be the deepening Taiwan issue. South Korea: In the midst of profound generational and political change amid enhanced self-confidence. It is moving toward new accommodations with its North Korean cousins whom it sees in a different light, even while retaining an increasingly complex alliance with the U.S.A. North Korea: Moving rapidly into the ranks of nuclear armed nations despite the concerns of its neighbors and the United States. Still a notable exception to the strong economies of the region, it is showing early signs of economic transition at home. With so much change swirling in the air, what policies should be pursued by the United States? This is a key issue for Americans, no matter which party wins the November election. One big question for the region down the road: Can the Six-Party process regarding North Korea be converted to a more permanent means of dealing with regional security issues in Northeast Asia?

He graduated from Princeton University in 1952. After serving in the US Army in Korea, he commenced his 38 year journalistic career in 1955, including 25 years with the Washington Post beginning in 1968 where he covered US Politics, Northeast Asia as Tokyo correspondent from 1972 to 1975 and was Diplomatic Correspondent for 17 years. He is the author of five books, including his recent biography of the late Senator and Ambassador Mike Mansfield. He has won the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for diplomatic correspondence, Georgetown University's annual Edward Weintal prize for diplomatic reporting and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Award exemplary service to the nation. He has served as visiting professor at Princeton University and president of Overseas Writers. He is a member of the Asia Society and Council on Foreign Relations and is currently program chair of the Washington Institute on Foreign Affairs.

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