The Newsletter 80 Summer 2018

Northeast Asia's engagements with the Middle East

Ilhong Ko

Northeast Asia’s links with the Middle East can be traced back to ancient times, when the two regions were connected via trade routes. The material remains of these trade relations, housed in the museums of Japan, South Korea, and China, are a vivid reminder of the active movement of Arab merchants and goods. In the modern period, engagements between the two regions have extended to the political, as well as economic realms. In this issue of News from Northeast Asia, we examine the reality of modern interactions between the Middle Eastern region and the countries of Northeast Asia, focusing on issues such as energy, diplomacy, investment, and military relations.

Of the Northeast Asian countries, Japan was the first to establish formal economic relations with the Middle East in the modern period. The way in which these economic, and later political, relations developed throughout the 20th century to the present day is addressed by Akiko Yoshioka, Senior Analyst at the JIME Center-IEEJ, in ‘Relations between Japan and the Middle East’. For South Korea, the Gulf region has been a ‘land of opportunities’ since the 1970s. In ‘Reinventing the Middle East? South Korea’s Engagements with the Gulf amid Geopolitical Conflicts’, June Park of Seoul National University discusses the potentials and risks facing South Korea’s maneuvers in the Middle East. China’s presence in the Middle East is considerable indeed, and its influence in the region is expected to increase even further. In an attempt to present a multi-faceted view of China-Middle East relations, two perspectives are presented. The way in which China envisages its role in, and relationship with, the region is first illustrated by Tsinghua University’s Tingyi Wang in ‘China and the Middle East: Old Friends in a New Era’. The reality of China’s engagements in the Middle East is then examined by Ceren Ergenç of Middle East Technical University in ‘China's Relations with the Middle East: A Perspective from the Region’.

Dr Ilhong Ko, Research Fellow at Seoul National University Asia Center; Regional Editor of ‘News from Northeast Asia’