The world convenes in The Hague

For just a few days, my city The Hague was the center of the world. That’s what it felt like at least, with over 50 heads of state in town for the Nuclear Security Summit.

The city was in a security lock-down for the past few days with the ominous noise of helicopters hovering above everywhere you went. However, these heads of state were not just here to talk about safeguarding nuclear material. Included also were museum visits, business conventions, and many many bilateral & multilateral discussions about all those other things happening in the world today. Most notably: Ukraine.

But for East Asia-watchers, this past week has been interesting as well.

President Xi Jinping of China combined the NSS with an official state visit to the Netherlands, which included time with the King & Queen but also a major business conference on Sunday for the 200 business delegates that followed him here. I probably missed a unique opportunity by not attending this event, despite it being an afternoon mostly filled with ceremony from what I’ve heard.

The other major leader of an East Asian state was here as well: Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. Having followed his career for much longer, and being much more familiar with Japanese politics, this visit seemed a lot more exciting – but it wasn’t combined with a business delegation. Abe’s schedule did include business: he visited a horticultural region in the country famous for its greenhouse technology. Several companies in this Dutch industry are working on building a presence on the Japanese market, including supporting the rebuilding of the agricultural sector in the Tohoku region.

And then there were the bilateral talks.

One reason why I find East Asia so fascinating is the diversity of politics, economy, history, culture in each of the countries that make up the region. No country is the same. And none of them get along.

President Obama put in some effort to get some of these countries at the table, and last night he met with President Park of South Korea and PM Abe. There were also talks with China.

As the New York Times writes:

The diplomacy of northeast Asia is a little like junior prom: Cathy won’t sit with Jamie, but maybe she would if Sally comes over and sits with them.

It’s quite amazing to realize the work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’. And events like these are rare opportunities where the leaders of the world get to do those quick face to face talks that are sometimes necessary to smooth things out – just like regular people might do in a work situation with colleagues who you talk to quickly at the end of a meeting to discuss something. But in this case, it concerns high-level diplomacy.

Pretty unique to ‘see’ that happening in your home town.

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