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A Political Economy Approach to Northeast Asian Regionalism: From a Crisis Model to a Political Leadership Model?
Published May 25, 2011
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The last two years have seen a series of changes affecting regionalism in North- east Asia. One category of changes has been the crises in the areas of economy and security. The first crisis is the global financial crisis that originated in the United States and that was triggered by the U.S. government’s decision to let the Wall Street firm of Lehman Brothers fail.

The second crisis was North Korea’s second nuclear test. Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean regime’s official mouthpiece, said: “We have suc- cessfully conducted another nuclear test on 25 May as part of the republic’s measures to strengthen its nuclear deterrent.”

Another category of changes are leadership changes in the region. The first leadership change occurred in South Korea, and the change can be character- ized as a more right wing government tilt. In contrast with South Korea is the power transition of the U.S. administration to a more reformist direction. Re- cently we have seen a dramatic leadership change in the Japanese government through a revolutionary victory against the Liberal Democratic Party, a victory that led to the launch of the Yukio Hatoyama cabinet with a new policy direc- tion symbolized by a new initiative for an East Asian community.

This paper analyzes the impacts of these changes on the direction of regional- ism in the region. Section 2 summarizes a recent study of a regional integration index in order to achieve an actual picture of the past and the present of the re- gion in terms of regional integration and comparing the Northeast Asian region with other major regional blocs. Section 3 introduces the models for explaining regionalism in general and Northeast Asian regionalism in particular. Section 4 tries to apply the outcomes of the study and the models to the above changes in order to get at the implications for the future direction of regionalism in the region. Section 5 is in lieu of a conclusion.

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