Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts U.S. Engagement in East Asia: A Case for ‘Track Two’ Diplomacy

U.S. Engagement in East Asia: A Case for ‘Track Two’ Diplomacy


As the Bush presidency draws to a close, the foreign policy community is taking stock of contemporary U.S.-Northeast Asian relations, assessing the challenges and opportunities that are likely to confront the next administration. China presents both in abundance, as reflected in ongoing tensions and misunderstandings in the Sino-American bilateral relationship. This article assesses the prospects for Washington to improve its relations with China through the mechanism of “track two” diplomacy. First, we expand on the track two concept by examining its main components and functions with illustrative examples. We extend the existing conceptualization of track two beyond its traditional conflict resolution functions and develop an account of it as a mechanism for policy coordination and the reorientation of regional dynamics from conflict to cooperation. Second, we identify major areas of U.S. interest in Northeast Asia and show how track two diplomacy might usefully be pursued within these contexts. Our analysis culminates with recommendations on how the Unites States should apply track two strategies in its relations with China.

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