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As seen from North-East Asia: Potential and limits of the EU as a strategic actor

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Europe looks strategically to the Orient

The Chinese, South Korean and Japanese economies are very important on a global scale, and US interaction with these economies is significant. Europe must examine its role in North-east Asia and explore regional ties both geopolitically and economically.

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Can Europe be a strategic player in the political and economic dynamics of Asian countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea? The EU-NortheastAsia project is exploring the potential and limits of EU involvement in this important region. It is focusing on EU motivations and aspirations towards China on space and defence matters, as China is the pivotal power in the region. The project is also examining the perceptions and reactions of Chinese policy-makers, on the one hand, and of Japanese, Taiwanese, South Korean and American policy-makers, on the other. By linking these two important viewpoints, the project is examining both intended and inadvertent consequences of European foreign policy towards China and the region, also taking into account US strategic interests in the area. Such a project could clarify the EU's potential, role and limits in North-east Asia. To begin with, the project has examined how promoting EU space and defence interests in China position the Union as a strategic actor, and what the implications would be for EU foreign policy in the area. It examined EU co-operation with China on space and satellite navigation, paying particular attention to Sino-European collaboration on the Galileo satellite system. The project then investigated arguments by EU policy-makers for improving military and defence technology ties with China, including the proposal to lift the EU arms embargo. The research found that these initiatives had been suggested and/or adopted by the Union and its Member States to advance political relations with Beijing and foster EU global competitiveness in key high-tech industrial sectors. This was seen as increasing independence from the US in a part of the world that had become increasingly important for the Union's socio-economic welfare. These research findings were published and studied closely by policy-makers. The second part of the project explored in detail how EU-China co-operation in space technology and satellite navigation, in addition to military and defence rapprochement, have been perceived in North-east Asia and the US. In addition, it examined Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese and American policy-makers' strong opposition to lifting the EU arms embargo on China. Evidence has shown that the EU is now being perceived in the region not only as an economic power bloc but also as a potential strategic actor. Fieldwork research and interviews led to the establishment of a network of contacts with scholars in some of the region's most prestigious universities, as well as policy-makers in the ministries of foreign affairs, defence, and science and technology. The project's final evaluation report has resulted in wider analysis of the potential for and limits of the EU as a strategic actor in North-east Asia, giving invaluable insight into the region's strategic dynamics.

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