Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on East Asian energy cooperation. Part I examines cooperation in energy conservation and natural gas markets. Part II will examine cooperation in nuclear energy.
Over the past few months, Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have deteriorated rapidly over territorial disputes. This is particularly true for relations between Japan and China, which are often described as having "cold politics and a hot economy," with the implication that political tensions will not damage economic ties. But now, reactions to the territorial disputes are beginning to spill into the economic realm, resulting in Chinese boycotts of Japanese products, especially automobiles. Relations between Japan and South Korea are also taking a hit over disputed territory.
Territorial sovereignty is inevitably a politically sensitive issue. Yet there remain important areas, especially in energy, where cooperation among Japan, China and South Korea is not only possible but necessary. With the euro crisis threatening to erupt again and the U.S. economy continuing to struggle, expectations are high for East Asia’s biggest economies to continue to drive the world economy.