Image Credit: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Originally appeared in The Diplomat Feburary 4, 2014

East Asian countries are each striving to become a “normal country.” In other words, they are unsatisfied with their current status and positions. The meaning of “normal country” may hold different answers for each of them: reunification, democratization, abolishing constitutional limitations, or national rejuvenation and restoration.

However, the varying contents of these countries’ dreams could lead to a clash of dreams. In particular, a real danger of a clash of dreams may include one party blaming the other for being an obstacle in the path to its search for greatness or past glory. Many problems in East Asia are represented by territorial disputes, such as those between China and Japan and between South Korea and Japan. Tensions can also be generated by words and actions over historical symbols, such as the recent controversy over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The fundamental source of these conflicts, however, is a clash of national dreams and identities.