Category Archives: Asia-Pacific Union

Japan pushes for East Asia bloc, US role uncertain

Reuters | Oct 24, 2009

By Jason Szep and Yoko Nishikawa

HUA HIN, Thailand, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister backed a U.S. role for a proposed EU-style Asian community on Saturday, telling Southeast Asian leaders Tokyo’s alliance with Washington was at the heart of its diplomacy.

Making a case for an East Asian Community at a summit of Asian leaders in Thailand, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said there should be some U.S. involvement in the bloc, which faces stiff obstacles including Japan’s historic rivalry with China.

It was unclear how a U.S. role would work. But the comment may help allay concern in some countries that such a body would ultimately fail by shutting out the world’s biggest economy.

Hatoyama may also be trying to defuse U.S.-Japan tension over the long-planned reorganisation of the American military presence in Japan, the first big test of ties between Washington and the new Japanese government.

“Japan places the U.S.-Japan alliance at the foundation of its diplomacy,” Hatoyama said at the meeting, according to a Japanese government spokesman.

“I would like to firmly promote regional cooperation in East Asia with a long-term vision of forming an East Asian Community.” Several Southeast Asian leaders expressed support for the bloc, but none spoke of a U.S. role at the meetings.

The talks are part of a three-day leaders’ summit which got off to a rancorous start on Friday, marred by a diplomatic spat between Thailand and neighbour Cambodia, a trade feud over Filipino rice and a few no-shows in the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China had a very different message at the meetings, signalling possible trouble ahead for Hatoyama. While he promoted a new community, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao focused on the current one, delivering what Chinese state media described as a six-point proposal for strengthening links with ASEAN.

This included developing a recently signed China-ASEAN free trade pact and accelerating regional infrastructure construction.

MYANMAR, NORTH KOREA

An ASEAN statement summing up talks within its own members urged its most recalcitrant state, Myanmar, to ensure elections next year are free and fair, though it stopped short of seeking the release of detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

That came a day after ASEAN launched a human rights commission as part of a plan to build an economic and political community by 2015, and drew a scathing rebuke from rights activists who said it was toothless and lacked independence.

The region’s leaders also called on North Korea to return to six-way nuclear disarmament talks.

The summit in the resort town of Hua Hin gave Asia’s economic titans, China and Japan, a chance to jockey for influence in Southeast Asia, a region of 570 million people with a combined $1.1 trillion economy, as it pulls out of recession.

Japan’s new government sees its influence bound to the East Asian Community, an idea inspired by the European Union that would account for nearly a quarter of global economic output.

It would encompass Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, along with ASEAN countries.

After meetings with China, Japan and South Korea, ASEAN holds talks on Sunday with India, Australia and New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Sunday will push another idea for a new, separate forum of Asia-Pacific nations to respond to regional crises. His idea includes the United States.

Washington has stepped up Asian diplomacy under the Obama administration and fears missing out on such groupings, especially as Japan considers redefining its U.S. security alliance, and Beijing expands its diplomatic and trade presence.

Exactly how Washington would participate is uncertain.

Asked if Washington would be a member of the Community, a Japanese government official told reporters: “It remains unclear. We have to see how multilateral meetings will turn out today.”

The proposal wasn’t elaborated upon, said Mari Elka Pangestu, trade minister of Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. “How the U.S. participates — because the U.S. is one of our dialogue partners — we need to think through.”

China has been coy about the idea while rapidly expanding ties across Southeast Asia — from building sleek new government offices in Cambodia to working closely with reclusive Myanmar.

“China wants to establish healthy relations with the new government in Japan, so it is not going to object to discussing this idea,” said Shi Yinhong, a regional security professor at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“But everybody understands the idea of an East Asia Community is extremely far off,” he added.

Host Thailand deployed about 18,000 security personnel backed by military gunships, determined to avoid a rerun of mishaps at past summits.

Japanese Prime Minister pushes for Asian Union

Financial Times | Oct 24 2009

By Kevin Brown in Hua Hin, Thailand

Yukio Hatoyama, the Japanese prime minister, won wide backing from Asian leaders on Saturday for his vision of an East Asian Community modelled on the European Union, his official spokesman said.

“There is an overall expression of welcome to the prime minister’s initiative,” Kazuo Kodama said after Mr Hatoyama met 11 other heads of government, including Manmohan Singh, his Indian counterpart.

However, Mr Hatoyama failed to dispel confusion over the proposed role of the US in the EAC, saying only that the relationship with Washington was the “foundation” of Japanese security, and that Tokyo would consult closely with the Americans.

Mr Kodama said the proposed community would build on the existing relationship between the 10 member Association of South East Asian Nations, which held a two-day summit in Hua Hin on Friday and Saturday, and the six countries that will join it for the East Asian Summit on Sunday.

That would give membership to Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, plus the Asean countries – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Burma, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos.

In a statement, the Asean leaders welcomed the Japanese prime minister’s attempts to reinvigorate Japan’s relations with other Asian countries, including the long-term vision of an EAC.

However, the Japanese prime minister also said that the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping could be “complementary” to the EAC. Apec, whose leaders meet next month in Singapore, includes the US and other Pacific nations from North and South America.

Such a grouping would be closer to an alternative idea proposed by Kevin Rudd, prime minister of Australia, for an Asia Pacific community that would also include the US and other American countries with a Pacific coastline.

The South East Asian leaders met the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea in a summit known as the Asean + 3 meeting after wrapping up their own summit on Saturday morning with a statement urging Thailand and the Philippines to settle a rice dispute that could derail a regional trade agreement.

The annual series of summits provides an opportunity for Japan, China and India to compete for influence in South East Asia, which has a population of more than 500m and a combined economy bigger than India’s.

Mr Hatoyama’s attempts to build support for an EAC reflect the new Japanese government’s determination to adopt a more proactive approach than its predecessor to engagement with the rest of Asia.

The US has also increased diplomatic efforts in Asia. President Barack Obama will hold the first US summit with Asean leaders on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Singapore. China has said only that it is willing to discuss the idea of an EAC.

The 16 heads of government in Hua Hin are protected by a security clampdown by about 18,000 troops and police that has virtually isolated the seaside town on the Gulf of Thailand to prevent demonstrations by opponents of the Thai government.

The series of summits got under way in Pattaya, Thailand, in April, but had to be abandoned after protesters surged through security checks and invaded the conference hall. An earlier attempt to hold the summits was abandoned in December after protesters shut down Bangkok’s airports.

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ASEAN looks forward to realization of ASEAN-China Free Trade Area

Xinhua | Oct 24, 2009

HUA HIN, Thailand, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) — The 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit issued a Chairman’s Statement Saturday, saying the bloc looked forward to the realization of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) on January 1, 2010.

“The leaders were pleased to note the progress in the implementation of the ASEAN-China Trade in Goods Agreement and looked forward to the realization of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) on January 1, 2010 when ASEAN 6 and China eliminates tariffs on products in their Normal Track,” said the Statement.

China has become ASEAN’s third largest trading partner in 2009.

The Statement added that ASEAN welcomed the signing of ASEAN-China Investment Agreement on Aug. 15, 2009 which effectively completed the mandate of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation.

It also said ASEAN looked forward to the signing of the three Memorandum of understanding between ASEAN and China Sunday.

“These MoUs would contribute towards the enhancement of trade, investment, tourism, cultural and people-to-people exchange, as well as cooperation in the field of intellectual property and standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment on imported and exported products between ASEAN and China to ensure peoples’ benefit and safety,” the Statement said.

Iran proposes setting up ‘Asian Union’

presstv.ir | Oct 15, 2009

The Iranian foreign minister has proposed setting up the ‘Asian Union’ to strengthen economic cooperation among Asian counties.

“We are trying to find a united stance on different economic issues to address the challenges presented by the economic crisis and offer appropriate management solution for the world,” Manouchehr Mottaki said at the 8th Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Ministerial Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

“If we are united, we will have closer cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism and transportation,” he said, expressing hope for the forging of better ties among Asian countries.

“We believe that a collective effort is required to ensure interests are generated and losses are reduced in regional equations,” the top Iranian diplomat said.

The ACD Ministerial Meeting is being held in Colombo under the theme of ‘Spirit of Asia: Global Economic Recovery and Development Prospects’ with the participation of its 31 member countries.

Iran, which became a member of ACD in 2004, will host the gathering next year.

Asian nations look to ‘lead world’

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Chinese Communist female soldiers march pass Tiananmen Square during the National Day parade on October 1, 2009 in Beijing, China. The grand celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of Communist China included a military parade and mass pageant consisting of about 200,000 citizens in Tiananmen Square. Getty Images

AFP | Oct 23, 2009

By Danny Kemp

HUA HIN, Thailand — Asian nations discussed plans at a major summit Saturday to “lead the world” by boosting economic and political cooperation and possibly forming an EU-style community.

The prime ministers of regional giants China and India also looked to foster unity on the sidelines of the summit in Thailand after months of trading barbs over long-standing territorial issues.

But nuclear-armed North Korea and military-ruled Myanmar were also set to top the agenda in the royal beach resort of Hua Hin, underscoring the challenges still facing the region.

The summit groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with regional partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said a proposed East Asian community involving all 16 countries should aspire to take a leading role as the region makes an early rebound from the global economic crisis.

“It would be meaningful for us to have the aspiration that East Asia is going to lead the world and with the various countries with different regimes cooperating with each other towards that perspective,” Hatoyama, who took office last month, told the Bangkok Post newspaper.

He described Japan’s alliance with the United States as the cornerstone of its foreign policy, but said the region should “try to reduce as much as possible the gaps, the disparities that exist amongst the Asian countries”.

China would “doubtless” grow further, particularly economically, “but I do not necessarily regard that as a threat,” Hatoyama said.

Officials said separately that East Asian nations would carry out a feasibility study for a huge free trade zone covering ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea and a larger group involving India, Australia and New Zealand.

Increased integration has been a recurring theme of the meetings in Thailand, as the rapidly changing region seeks to capitalise on the fact that it has recovered more quickly from the recession than the West.

ASEAN leaders have been discussing plans to create their own political and economic community by 2015.

But cross-border spats have continued to dog the summit, with host nation Thailand dragged into a war of words with Cambodia and India and China seeking to resolve their differences.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh held “productive” talks on the sidelines of the summit Saturday but did not discuss their spat over territorial issues, officials said.

“We have reached important consensus on promoting bilateral ties,” Wen was quoted as saying by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua as the talks opened.

Beijing has voiced its opposition to a recent visit by Singh to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian border state at the core of the dispute, and to a planned visit there next month by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama were not discussed at Saturday’s meeting, an Indian delegation official said. The two nations fought a border war in 1962.

Human rights issues have also marred the summit. A widely criticised rights body officially launched by ASEAN on Friday was due to have its first ever meeting on Saturday.

The bloc was caught up in a row on Friday when leaders barred several activists from meeting them as previously arranged.

Meanwhile Thailand and Cambodia remained at loggerheads over the fate of fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen bizarrely offered him a job as his economic adviser.

Around 18,000 troops and dozens of armoured vehicles have been deployed in Hua Hin after it was twice postponed by anti-government protests, with another 18,000 on standby or on duty in Bangkok.

The leaders are expected to sign a host of agreements this weekend on economic and other issues including climate change, disaster management, communications and food security in the rapidly changing region.

Australia’s Rudd To America: China Is Not An Enemy

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Australia’s Rudd Tells US That China Is Not An Enemy, But Presents An Economic Opportunity

AP | Mar 26, 2009

SYDNEY – Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has urged Americans not to view China as an enemy but as a country offering huge economic opportunities, even though its leaders have “done some bad things in the past.”

Rudd was speaking during a visit to Washington, where the Mandarin-speaking former diplomat has been welcomed as an expert on China as well as a close ally of the United States.

Rudd was asked on the influential PBS television program “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” whether Americans should view China as an ally, an enemy, or some other way .

“I think China represents a huge opportunity for us all for the 21st century,” Rudd replied, noting the country had a big part to play as “the center of global economic gravity” shifts toward the Asia Pacific region.

He said the “smart course of action” for the United States and Australia would be to help integrate China into global political, economic and security institutions and engage Beijing on climate change.

“Now, if China was to turn its back on that or not be responsible, the world would soon know,” Rudd said. “They’re not perfect. They’ve done some bad things in the past. But let’s look at the opportunities, rather than simply assume it’s all threat and all risk.”

The interview was conducted hours after Rudd held talks with President Barack Obama at the White House, where the leaders discussed the war in Afghanistan, the global financial crisis and climate change.

Rudd is touting the G-20 forum as a key tool in tackling the financial meltdown and is urging that China be given a greater voice in the grouping and other international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. G-20 leaders are due to meet next week to discuss the crisis.

After the meeting, Obama said he and Rudd had a “great meeting of the minds” in how to approach the crisis, though he did not mention China.

Rudd meets Kissinger to discuss Asia Pacific Union

Rudd meets Kissinger for talks ahead of G20

abc.net.au | Mar 28, 2009

By Lyndal Curtis

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has discussed his proposal for an Asia Pacific community with the former Nixon administration’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

Mr Rudd talked to the former diplomat and national security adviser during his visit to New York, ahead of the G20 leaders’ meeting in London.

A spokesman for Mr Rudd says they discussed the evolving strategic and economic landscape in the Asia Pacific region and Mr Rudd’s long term goal of developing a new regional grouping, the Asia Pacific community.

They talked about the shared view that the region would benefit from institutions and structures that would encourage co operation between all major players.

Mr Rudd has also talked to leading economists Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz as well as touring the trading floor of the New York stock exchange.

While there he had a working lunch with stock exchange executives and representatives of companies with business in Australia.

He says it is a tough time for the world and Australia, but told the gathering that Australia’s economy remains strong.

“These are important underlying strengths for Australia, the economic name of Australia, as well as the particular interests we have to advocate for the corporates here in New York,” he said.

Advocacy ‘not unusual’

Mr Rudd is now on his way to London, saying a deal has not yet been done on the best way to deal with the global recession and there is still a lot of work ahead.

But he has defended his advocacy for China to have an increased role in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after criticism from the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Rudd has been arguing that China’s economic weight and the likelihood it will be called on to contribute more money to the IMF demand it be given a greater role in the body.

Mr Turnbull has accused Mr Rudd of being a travelling advocate for China instead of Australia.

Mr Rudd says his advocacy is not unusual.

“I think a lot of governments around the world are talking about how China could play a greater role in the IMF,” he said.

“That’s just normal because we want to see the IMF active in the global financial debate in dealing with some of the problems emerging in developing economies.”