This paper examines the distinctive approach developed by the EU towards East Asia’s two main security challenges, namely: (i) North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes; (ii) China’s growing assertiveness in the East and South China Sea. It argues that Europe has succeeded — albeit inadvertently and without a clear strategy — in engaging the region in a comprehensive way, i.e. one that includes harsher sanctions vis-a-vis the DPRK; support for regional initiatives aimed at cooperation and reconciliation among China, Japan and South Korea; and political declarations in favour of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Such an approach — too often overlooked — deserves instead serious consideration, since it could help the region’s policymakers to address not only the DPRK’s threat but also mounting nationalism which put at risk both North and Southeast Asia’s peace and stability.
Paper presented at the symposium on "Rising Tensions in East Asia and the Japanese Response", organized by the Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS) and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), Geneva, 12 January 2018.