September 1-2, 2016
The problems triggered by divergent interpretations of history are by no means unique to Northeast Asia, but they have a special intensity and resonance in that part of the world. They have assumed a prominent role in domestic politics and frequently top the diplomatic agenda. The past is increasingly present in Northeast Asia and its impact – both positive and negative – is growing. As Kim Hosup, president of The Northeast Asia History Foundation (NAHF), argues, “conflicts over history have become prevailing issues between countries in Northeast Asia. … Coupled with matters of territory and security, they have emerged as critical factors that either threaten regional order or hinder the formation of regionalism.” Cognizant of that trend, NAHF and the Pacific Forum CSIS, with support from the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Korea, convened in September 2016 a small group of historians, foreign policy specialists, and former government officials to explore the relationship between history and national security in Northeast Asia. As we tried to unravel the tangled threads that confound an accurate assessment of the roots, meaning, and impact of those issues, we encountered few surprises. Yet while we should be accustomed to the power of history to continue to influence developments in Northeast Asia, we may be entering a period of flux that magnifies their influence. It is therefore incumbent on all supporters of the US-ROK alliance, as well as those who believe that positive and supportive Korea-Japan relations are also important to regional security and stability, to strive to better understand both history and contemporary politics and ensure that the forces of disruption are contained and channeled to constructive ends.