The Gift of Dialogue

A discussion about human rights, sovereignty, and dispute resolution in East Asia coincides with a major grant to NYU Law from the government of Japan.

Takahashi, Cohen, Ito, and Morrison
Takahashi, Cohen, Ito, and Morrison

A $5 million grant from the government of Japan last November provided an endowment for the US-Asia Law Institute (USALI) to ensure the institute’s longterm sustainability and to support the use of international law to resolve conflicts and disputes in Asia. A research center that promotes the rule of law and human rights in Asia, USALI serves as a resource and partner for various Asian countries as they develop their legal systems, and is one of the leading such organizations in the United States for the study of law in Asia.

The grant recognizes the pathbreaking work of USALI and Professor Jerome Cohen, its faculty director, guaranteeing that the leadership and research of the institute will continue well into the future.

“We are enormously grateful to the government of Japan for its generous support of the US-Asia Law Institute,” said Dean Trevor Morrison, who participated in a signing ceremony at NYU Law alongside Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, consul general of Japan in New York, and Cohen. “The Law School is dedicated to advancing scholarship in comparative and international law, and this grant will further the institute’s important work promoting mutual understanding between the United States and Asia on legal issues, engaging with Asian partners to advocate for legal reform, and educating our students and the public about legal developments in Asia.”

The announcement of the gift coincided with USALI’s 23rd annual Timothy A. Gelatt Memorial Dialogue on the Rule of Law in East Asia. The daylong program was titled “China and International Law: Human Rights, Sovereignty, and Dispute Resolution.” One of the discussions featured Takahashi and Ren Ito LLM ’04, a senior fellow at USALI. Takahashi shared his observations about security challenges related to two countries in East Asia: North Korea and China.

“We have had a long history of negotiations with North Korea over the three generations of leadership,” said Takahashi, who has served in the foreign service for 37 years. Takahashi said that North Korean president Kim Il-sung was open to negotiation but did not keep his word, while his successor Kim Jong-il only pretended to negotiate.

The ambassador weighed the option of mutual suspension suggested by China and Russia. Under this plan, North Korea would freeze nuclear development, and the US would cease joint military exercises with South Korea. But the history of negotiations with North Korea showed that it would be difficult to verify such a freeze, Takahashi said.

“Time is not on our side, but our options are also limited,” Takahashi said. He recommended maintaining maximum pressure on Kim Jong-un and encouraging other countries, including China, to target North Korea with sanctions. (Since Takahashi spoke last November, US relations with North Korea have shifted, and continue to do so.)

Speaking after Takahashi, Ito noted that Chinese President Xi Jinpin has suggested that the international community will see a more assertive China in the years to come. “What can we do to invite China to follow, respect, and strengthen the legal framework, and act as a responsible stakeholder in this region?” Ito asked.

Ito also expressed concern about the rise of nationalism in China. “While nationalist sentiments may hold potential to overcome a social crisis,” he said, “it can easily grow out of control.”

Posted September 4, 2018. This story is based on two articles that appeared previously on the NYU Law website.