ASEAN+3: Can it Pave the Way for East Asian Regionalism?

ASEAN+3: Can it Pave the Way for East Asian Regionalism?

East Asia is known as a region that has great potential in terms of economy and politics. The countries located in this region have different characteristics and perspectives. Therefore, it is not easy to form regionalism in this region. Although, in fact, countries in the region have formed cooperation in the form of trilateral cooperation.

Trilateral cooperation, as the name suggests, is a cooperation between three countries in East Asia, namely China, Japan and South Korea. This cooperation was first launched within the ASEAN framework, at the ASEAN+3 forum held in 1997. The existence of this cooperation is inseparable from the role of ASEAN in the East Asian region, which at that time sought to expand its scope by opening cooperation with non-Asean member countries within the ASEAN+ framework.

In relation to the formation of regionalism in the region, trilateral cooperation is expected to reduce the mutual distrust that makes the East Asian region conflictual. As mutual distrust decreases, it will encourage the formation of regionalism in the region.

East Asia: Ideological Conflicts, Economic Threats, and Security Issues

East Asia is a vast region consisting of China, Japan and Korea, which is divided into two parts, North and South Korea. The division of the region is inseparable from the influence of ideological conflicts in the Cold War at that time. The conflictual nuances that arise within the East Asian region are also influenced by the perceptions of each country in the region.

Regional integration in this region is not an easy matter. The rise of China as a major economic power may be perceived as a threat by other countries. In addition, the East Asian region is also threatened in terms of security. North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons has made other countries in the region very wary.

The perception of each country in the East Asian region towards the existence of other countries as a threat also exacerbates the conflict that occurs. Although in recent years, there have been efforts to improve relations between countries in the region, such as the dialogue between North and South Korea, and the rapprochement between Japan and China, it is unlikely that regionalism in East Asia will be established.

In addition, there is distrust in terms of security in the region. This can be seen in North Korea's withdrawal from the Six Party Talks. The purpose of the Six Party Talks was to provide the region with a framework for future multilateral cooperation. The talks discussed mechanisms to create security and peace in the region, including denuclearization. However, North Korea's withdrawal from the talks is uncooperative and shows that the region is still not ready to cooperate in creating security and peace in the region.

Pertemuan ASEAN+3 |
ASEAN+3 Summit | Photo by

Is ASEAN+3 Enough to Create Regionalism in The Region? 

There are several factors to consider. First of all, the decision to exclude North Korea was a strategic mistake. As an important country in the region, North Korea's exclusion from the ASEAN+3 agreement shows a lack of uniformity in regionalism efforts. On the other hand, engaging North Korea is also not an easy decision given the mutual distrust that exists within the region. 

Second, fundamental differences between countries in the region are difficult to overcome. For example, Japan has a complicated history with Korea and China, while China and South Korea have significant political and ideological differences. This makes it difficult to create trust and solidarity in the region.

Therefore, to create effective regionalism in the East Asian region, more than an ASEAN+3 agreement is needed. First of all, North Korea must be included in regionalism efforts, to ensure uniformity and fairness in these efforts. In addition, countries in the region should create more forums for dialogue and cooperation in the fields of economy, education, and culture, to strengthen solidarity and trust between countries in the region.

Of course, creating regionalism in East Asia is a big challenge. One of them is security related to nuclear weapons, which must be addressed carefully and wisely. Peace efforts and cooperation between countries in the East Asian region are still demands that must be met so that the region can grow and develop harmoniously. Given that one of the existence of regionalism is also to prevent conflict.

East Asia has great potential as an advanced and influential economic region in the world. However, to achieve this goal, a joint effort is needed from all countries in the region to strengthen cooperation and strengthen trust in each other.


Justyna Szczudlik-Tatar, “Regionalism in East Asia: A Bumpy Road to Asian Integration,”The Polish Institute of International Affairs 64, no. 16 (2013): 5

Ralph A. Cossa, “Northeast Asian Regionalism: A (Possible) Means to an End for Washington,” Council on Foreign Relations (2009): 2.

Cossa, “Northeast Asian Regionalism: A (Possible) Means to an End for Washington,” 7

Kementerian Luar Negeri Indonesia. (2018). Perutusan Tetap Republik Indonesia untuk ASEAN: ASEAN Plus Three

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