Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 04:36 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 04:36 | SYDNEY

A feast of trilaterals


Malcolm Cook

18 June 2008 16:37

Strategic triangles (never squares, rectangles or hexagons) are a very familiar theme in security studies and now, in the Asia Pacific at least, they are being institutionalized into a growing number of trilateral dialogues.

In Tokyo last week, Prime Ministers Fukuda and Rudd reinforced their support for the US-Japan-Australia trilateral dialogue, including by expressing that the growing Japan-Australia security relationship serves as a support for this Trilateral Security Dialogue. Recently, the election of Lee Myung-bak as President of South Korea has helped revive Japan-US-RoK trilateral security cooperation, while last Saturday, the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea and China met in Japan to discuss trilateral cooperation in disaster relief and North Korea. The foreign ministers of the three Northeast Asian powers plan to meet again on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum next month.

Finally, in a speech at the Lowy Institute on Monday, one of Japan’s leading China experts, Takahara Akio from Tokyo University, raised the prospect of the trilateral of trilaterals, a regularized meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan, the US and China, noting growing Chinese support for this idea.

The larger pieces of Asian architecture this blog has recently focused on certainly helps set the ground for these trilaterals. However, reflecting Hugh White’s earlier posts, these smaller groupings of the great and middle powers may hold more promise for guiding the Asia Pacific through its historic redistribution of power and influence. I think we should keep as close an eye on the proliferation of trilaterals as we do on the proliferation of 'inclusive' (code for ineffective?) regional institutions.