This REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes regional study provides a synthesis of the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems in East Asia, a region comprised of China, Japan, North and South Korea, and Mongolia. We estimate the current terrestrial carbon balance of East Asia and its driving mechanisms during 1990–2009 using three different approaches: inventories combined with satellite greenness measurements, terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycle models and atmospheric inversion models. The magnitudes of East Asia's terrestrial carbon sink from these three approaches are comparable: −0.293±0.033 PgC yr−1 from inventory–remote sensing model–data fusion approach, −0.413±0.141 PgC yr−1 (not considering biofuel emissions) or −0.224±0.141 PgC yr−1 (considering biofuel emissions) for carbon cycle models, and −0.270±0.507 PgC yr−1 for atmospheric inverse models. Here and in the following, the numbers behind ± signs are standard deviations. The ensemble of ecosystem modeling based analyses further suggests that at the regional scale, climate change and rising atmospheric CO2 together resulted in a carbon sink of −0.289±0.135 PgC yr−1, while land-use change and nitrogen deposition had a contribution of −0.013±0.029 PgC yr−1 and −0.107±0.025 PgC yr−1, respectively. Although the magnitude of climate change effects on the carbon balance varies among different models, all models agree that in response to climate change alone, southern China experienced an increase in carbon storage from 1990 to 2009, while northern East Asia including Mongolia and north China showed a decrease in carbon storage. Overall, our results suggest that about 13–27% of East Asia's CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning have been offset by carbon accumulation in its terrestrial territory over the period from 1990 to 2009. The underlying mechanisms of carbon sink over East Asia still remain largely uncertain, given the diversity and intensity of land management processes, and the regional conjunction of many drivers such as nutrient deposition, climate, atmospheric pollution and CO2 changes, which cannot be considered as independent for their effects on carbon storage.