Explaining Surprises in Asian Regionalism: The Japan-Korea-China Trilateral Cooperation

Publication Date: 
Publication Language: 
Series Title: 
GR:EEN Working Paper Series
Working Paper Type: 

Why has the scholarship on ASEAN Plus Three not anticipated the emergence of the trilateral cooperative framework among Japan, Korea and China? The trilateral ‘dialogue’ that in 2008 took shape in a format separate from ASEAN has become a key surprise in Asian regionalism. Given the direct link to ASEAN Plus Three (APT), I review possible explanations based on trends in APT as they have been described in the literature. The implications of this exercise are as follows. While too much weight has been attached to promoting scholarly ‘labels’ – Sino-Japanese competition, power of ASEAN to socialize, and economic focus in APT – far too little attention on the other hand has been afforded to note Korea’s regional preferences, pre-existing contradictions, and varied roles of APT. To respond better to similar challenges in the future, the scholarship on Asian regionalism needs to attach more value to elaborating and testing of alternative scenarios.