[Essay] Start-up conference of NoA-SRC “Challenges to the Northeast Asia Regional Studies” on May 28-29, 2016

Start-up conference of NoA-SRC “Challenges to the Northeast Asia Regional Studies” 

On May 28-29, 2016, NoA-SRC held a start-up conference within the framework of the NIHU Area Studies Project for Northeast Asia at the Hamada campus of the University of Shimane. The main session entitled “Challenges to Area Studies for Northeast Asia” discussed the region’s unique history, identity, regional issues, and possible bilateral and multilateral cooperation. On the first day, Yuichi Honda, President of the University of Shimane, and Shinichiro Tabata, Director of Hokkaido University’s Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, delivered opening speeches. In his keynote speech entitled “Prospects and Challenges to Northeast Asia Regional Studies,” Haruki Wada, Emeritus Professor of Tokyo University, raised the topic of Northeast Asian community history at the national and regional level from the 1990s to the present, and described the regional structures of “East Asia” and “Northeast Asia.”

Also, besides addressing Northeast Asia security issues, such urgent agenda as the North Korean issue, rise of China, and transition from a traditional bilateral cooperation network to a new regional security organization were mentioned. Moreover, Professor Wada touched upon such topics as historical recognition of the colonial past and war crimes as well as tendering apologies and seeking reconciliation. In addition to discussing different territorial disputes in the region, from the Northern Territories to Takeshima and Senkaku, the topic of new possible regional cooperation in such fields as disaster and emergency assistance, environment, and refugee networking was raised.

After the first lecture given by Professor Emeritus Wada, leaders of two research bases Atsushi Inoue (Director of Northeast Asia Research Center, University of Shimane) and Akihiro Iwashita (Professor at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University) gave their own reports. Professor Inoue in his presentation explained the negative and positive aspects of modernization in Northeast Asia using the ideas of Shigeaki Uno. Professor Iwashita in his report distinguished unique characteristics of the region from an international relations theory perspective: 1) driving forces of the region – relationships between major powers (Japan, the USA, China, and Russia); 2) the power balance among the four major powers leading to formation of a cycle; and 3) comparison with other regions (for example, in Northeast Asia, a post-Cold War peace seems to be established with no notable change of system). At the end of the session, both members gave comments and constructive criticism on each other’s presentations.

On the second day, Professor Takeshi Hamada from Hokkai-Gakuen University gave a lecture on “Contemporary Border Fishery in Northeast Asian Seas.” Professor Hamada outlined the background to the negotiations on fisheries between Japan and Russia (Japan and the USSR), Japan and Korea, and Japan and China in the border areas and the problems of fishery in Japanese coastal waters after ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In the next session, Professor Wada, Professor Iwashita, Mr. Masato Nishino (Director of the Sea of Japan Crab Pot Fishery Association), and Mr. Jiro Adachi (Representative of the Hamada City Fishing Industry Association) joined Professor Hamada at the roundtable discussion on territorial disputes in marine areas, contradictions between fishermen’s rights and territorial issues, and negotiations between Japan and South Korea on fishery in the border areas of Northeast Asia (near Shimane and Tottori).

At this two-day conference, there were numerous discussions on different topics: from the movement of people and objects in regions with relatively strong state control to the necessity of free trade agreements between countries with already-developed economies, which greatly helped SRC define its further course in this regional project.

This conference was organized by members of NoA-SRC with strong support from the Northeast Asia Research Center (University of Shimane), which is also one of the program’s bases. Besides collaboration between the two centers, great contributions to organization of the event were made by Mr. Yuki Konagaya (Executive Director, NIHU) and by members of the National Museum of Ethnology. The conference became an opportunity for each member to think about the themes and goals of the Area Studies Project for Northeast Asia beyond the discipline.

(Written by: Mihoko Kato, Translated by: Aleksandra Kuklina)


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