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[Guest Column] Put the environment at center of new NSCs of Korea, China and Japan

By Park Sae-jin Posted : November 20, 2013, 15:50 Updated : November 20, 2013, 15:50
The recent efforts of Korea, China and Japan to create a comprehensive control tower approach to security issues through the implementation of a “national security council” system offer a tremendous potential for standardization in procedure for approaching security issues today in this period of increased tensions.
We can assure peace and prosperity in Asia, a region increasingly critical to the global economy, by making sure that the terms employed and the institutions responsible for security issues are fully compatible between the three countries.
The establishment of similar offices and positions with roughly equivalent portfolios and transparent chains of commands in each of these nations will make close cooperation easier and avoid the misunderstandings so often born out of efforts to work between disparate institutions. The increase in territorial issues of late makes such a development most welcome.
The National Security Council serves the president directly as a source for both advice and institutional support. The system was an innovation of President Harry Truman established in the United States in 1947.

The National Security Council was adapted in the Republic of Korea by former President Park Chung-hee in 1963, but had lost much of its authority before being reinvigorated by President Park Geun-hye recently.

The administration of China’s President Xi Jinping decided to adopt a national security council to handle international security on Nov. 12, 2013.

Japan, for its part, has announced that it will adopt such an institution at the beginning of 2014.

Although North Korea, territorial issues and possible tensions between China and Japan are appropriate questions for these three security councils to address, let us hope that these new councils can serve as a place for powerful institutional innovation and an expansion of the concept of security.
Above all, if the national security councils in the three nations can expand their responsibilities to include emerging security threats, there is tremendous potential for meaningful cooperation between the three national security councils —cooperation that could reduce tensions.
Specifically, the environmental crisis, represented by the spread of deserts in China and North Korea, the contamination of water throughout the region, the Fukushima nuclear crisis and the increase in extreme storms and floods, will be an increasingly large part of security concerns for the region.
It would be a significant innovation if these national security councils include environmental issues in their duties, especially in light of the extreme typhoon that has caused such damage in the Philippines and demonstrated that such security threats are now primary.

We must find ways for the three nations, along with the United States and Europe, to cooperate and address environmental threats in terms of prevention, adaptation and the response to disasters.
So also the field of information security calls out for a new level of cooperation that could be coordinated between the national security councils of the three countries.

Whereas spying and hacking by other nation states were the primary security threat in the past, now a broad range of players, including small groups and even individuals, have the power to alter the information that we trust and rely on.

Moreover, the sale of information harvested illegally and legally has become an enormous threat globally. The response to the information security threat will be difficult and complex, but if the three nations can expand their efforts for collaboration through the auspices of the national security councils, new systems for assuring the integrity of information and net neutrality can be set up between them.
These new Asian national security councils can lead us into a new era of innovation in the region and in the world.
By Emanuel Pastreich, an associate professor of the College of International Studies at Kyung Hee University and director of the Asia Institute

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