Korea is positioned at the center of most of the major groupings in Asia's emerging regional architecture: from APEC, to the Six Party Talks, the East Asia Summit and the G-20. Middle powers like Australia and Canada have successfully used multilateral diplomacy to enhance their own influence and brand in international affairs and Korea is now poised to do the same. Korea stands at the juncture of all the major fissures and uncertainties about the future of Asian order: between democratic norms and Asian values; between continental and maritime Asia; between Japan and China; and between East Asian and trans-Pacific trade liberalization. Can Korea be a bridge across these fissures and a source of stability and increasing regional cooperation in Asia? A "balancer" as Roh Moo Hyun argued that can play the major powers against each other? Or could Korea be swallowed like a "shrimp between whales" as major powers compete to dominate Asia's future regional order?
Michael J. Green is associate professor at Georgetown university and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as special assistant to the president and senior director for asian affairs on the National Security Council staff in the George W. Bush administration.