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NAPCI and Trilateral Cooperation: Prospects for South Korea-EU Relations


Scholars and policymakers often speak of an “Asian paradox” to describe Northeast Asia, as the region simultaneously displays increasing levels of economic interdependence in parallel with hegemonic struggles. To overcome this paradox, the Park Geun-hye Administration in South Korea adopted a strategy known as the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI) whose aim was not the immediate establishment of multilateral solutions; rather, it placed more emphasis on the long-term process of fostering small yet meaningful forms of cooperation. Nonetheless, it has thus far achieved no significant breakthroughs and, if anything, conflicts in the region have become more pronounced. This paper makes a comparison between NAPCI and the process of trilateral cooperation between China, Japan and Korea. In fact, there are many similarities between the two approaches – and they can be complementary. It is argued here that in order to build a norm-based East Asian regime, cooperation between South Korea and Japan is indispensable. Simultaneously, it is essential to demonstrate to China that such rules-based systems can be effective for managing security in the region. As the EU has been a relevant model for the NAPCI initiative, there are implications for South Korea-EU relations, including their cooperation in non-traditional security issues.

Paper presented at the international conference “Trust Building in North East Asia and the Role of the EU” organized in Rome on 21 October 2016 by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) with the kind support of the Korea Foundation (KF).

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