East Asia Nuclear Policy Project
Morton H. Halperin, The Nuclear Dimension of the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Section 8, "A Regional Security Structure"


A Regional Security Structure

Out of the discussions on Korea as well as nuclear issues and other security issues in Northeast Asia might grow a consensus on the need to create-first informally and then more formally-a new international forum for discussing the security problems of Northeast Asia.34 Such a forum might be patterned after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a pan-European security organization that was established as a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in Europe. Like the OSCE, a Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Organization (NACSO) could be designed to promote cooperative solutions to security problems through decisions achieved by consensus, contributing toward the prevention of conflict among powers with interests in Northeast Asia, as well as toward providing the means to address threats to international peace and regional security. Structurally, it might have a small, informal secretariat that helps set the agenda for meetings of heads of government as well as of foreign and defense ministers and chiefs of staffs.

This organization would provide a venue to discuss arms control and confidence-building measures for the region, including those related to nuclear weapons. Its agenda in this regard would include the measures directly relating to the Korean peninsula as well as more general security issues, including the proposed nuclear free zone, playing an important role even if agreement could not be reached on issues related to the Korean peninsula. The PRC would almost certainly resist formal membership for the ROC on Taiwan or any explicit discussion of what it views as a domestic issue. Still, discussions of security issues related to Taiwan might occur at the margins of these meetings.

The proposed Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Organization would not seek to supplant existing collective security treaties, including the bilateral treaties between the United States and Korea and Japan. Rather, these treaties would be viewed as a second line of defense to be activated only if these cooperative security measures failed. That is, the United States, Japan and the ROK would undertake to consult with the NACSO first in the event of a security threat in the region and only resort to consultation within the framework of these treaties if this effort failed. Military cooperation, joint planning and military exercises would be permitted after notification and other measures to avoid misunderstandings. The bilateral security treaties would be accepted by all the states in the region as not directed at any other states. For Japan and South Korea, they would provide assurances against military threats from China or Russia. The other states would accept the treaty as a necessary means to limit the armament of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, including their continued adherence to the NPT and acceptance of a nuclear free zone.

To summarize in more concrete terms, the security landscape that the United States should strive for in the unified Korea would include:

  • a united, democratic Korea allied to the United States and committed to not developing nuclear weapons;

  • U.S. forces stationed in Korea pursuant to the bilateral security treaty;

  • an international agreement on security on the Korean peninsula that limits the deployment of U.S. troops to below the 40th parallel and provides for confidence- building measures, including notification of military exercises by any state in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula and restrictions on Chinese and Russian troops in the area bordering Korea, and on Japanese naval and troop deployments;

  • a treaty that creates a nuclear free zone in Northeast Asia that covers Korea, Taiwan and Japan and prohibits the nuclear weapons states from storing nuclear weapons in the area or using them against the non-nuclear states or each other in the zone covered by the treaty; and

  • a Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Organization that brings the key players together to discuss these issues.

Success in negotiating this set of arrangements would not only increase the chances for the peaceful unification of the two Korean states and for cooperative security in Asia, but it would make a major contribution toward preventing nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia and throughout the world.

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34 For a discussion on the role of regional structures in Northeast Asia as a mechanism for peace, see Kyung-Won Kim, "Maintaining Asia's Current Peace," Survival (Winter 1997-1998): 53-4. Back


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