[Paleopsych] UPI: New Map Of Asia Lacks US
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Sun Jan 1 02:43:22 UTC 2006
New Map Of Asia Lacks US
Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad points at his anti-war
badge after a press conference at his office in Putrajaya, 07
December 2005. Australia's hard-won entry into the inaugural East
Asia summit was soured 07 December after former Malaysian premier
Mahathir Mohamad said Canberra would likely be bossy and dilute the
grouping's clout. Malaysia Out AFP photo.
By Martin Walker
Washington (UPI) Dec 08, 2005
The United States will not take part in next week's East Asia
summit, but, to paraphrase a former secretary of state's phrase
about the Balkan wars, the Americans most certainly have a dog in
There is a fight under way at the summit, albeit a polite and
diplomatic tussle. The Japanese, with discreet but potent American
backing, have already ensured that the original plan of the former
Malaysian premier for a purely Asian summit was blocked. Australia
and New Zealand will now be taking part in the forum, to the fury
of the still-influential Mahathir Mohammed.
"We are not going to have an East Asian summit. We are going to
have an East Asia-Australasia summit," Mahathir told a specially
convened news conference last week to complain that the presence of
Australia and New Zealand subverted his dream of a genuinely Asian
"Now Australia is basically European and it has made clear to the
rest of the world it is the deputy sheriff to America and
therefore, Australia's view would represent not the East but the
views reflecting the stand of America," Mahathir added.
There was also some reluctance, discreetly fostered by China, to
admit India to what was intended to be an East Asian club, but
India (like Russia, but not the United States) was prepared to sign
the Association of South-East Asian Nations' Treaty of Amity and
Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which ASEAN nations call "the
admission ticket" to the summit.
A report in China's People's Daily noted this week that Russia's
inclusion in the club was "simply a matter of time," and Russian
will hold a separate bilateral meeting with ASEAN immediately
before the summit.
But it remains significant that the United States, as the region's
security guarantor for decades and as its biggest market, is not
welcome. The summit is clearly emerging as an important building
block in the new economic, security and political structure of Asia
that is evolving, and for obvious reasons this structure is heavily
influenced by China's explosive economic growth, the new reality to
which the whole of Asia is learning to adapt.
As China's People's Daily noted this week, to explain the problems
of drafting a joint communique, the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, from
the summit: "According to insiders, some countries including
Thailand sided with China over the claim that 'this entity must
take ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, Republic of Korea) as its core' and
demanded no mention of community in the draft.
While others led by Japan hope to write into the draft 'to build a
future East Asia Community' and include the names of the 16
countries. By doing so, ASEAN diplomats believe, Japan is trying to
drag countries outside this region such as Australia and India into
the community to serve as a counterbalance to China.
"To grab the upper hand at the meeting, analysts say, Japan would
most probably dish out the 'human rights' issue and draw in the
United States, New Zealand and Australia to build up U.S.,
Japan-centered Western dominance," the People's Daily added. "At
the same time, it will particularly highlight the differences in
political and economic systems between developed countries such as
Australia, New Zealand and the ROK and developing ones including
China and Vietnam, in an attempt to crumble away cooperative forces
and weaken Chinese influence in East Asia."
The summit, to be held in Kula Lumpur, Malaysia, on Dec. 14, will
include Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, the Republic
of Korea and the 10 members of ASEAN -- Singapore, Malaysia,
Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
The eventual goals of the summit are huge. Japan's Foreign Minister
Taro Aso said this week in a speech in Tokyo that: "Japan believes
we should bring into being the East Asia Free Trade Area and the
East Asia Investment Area in order to move us even one step closer
to regional economic integration."
Eventually, he has in mind (as do many of the ASEAN countries)
something similar to the process of integration through trade that
created over the past 50 years the present European Union. It will
take a long time, and endless negotiations, and Aso's speech also
laid out the immediate agenda for economic integration.
"In Asia, the fact is that there are multiple factors inhibiting
investment, including the existence of direct restrictions on
investment, insufficient domestic legal frameworks, difficulties in
the implementation of laws, inadequacy of the credit system, and
others, particularly the complete inadequacy of protections for
intellectual property rights," Aso said.
India, with backing from Australia, sees the summit paving the way
for an eventual Asian free-trade zone, though it remains cool to
any grander designs for security or political integration along EU
lines. China, which has said little about the kind of community it
wants to see, mainly wants to ensure that no Asian gathering takes
place without its increasingly overwhelming presence.
So what is emerging, in America's absence, looks to be three
distinct camps of a potentially uncomfortable assembly. The
Australians and Indians and Japanese, and some of the more
Western-minded ASEAN members, want to focus on economic cooperation
and trade, but within the overall framework of the World Trade
Organization, plus useful collaboration in areas like common action
against avian flu. This group also wants to retain the current role
of the United States as the region's key security guarantor.
Then there is China, which evidently assumes that its economic
prowess will eventually ensure that the East Asian summit, the
region's economy and its security system are all dominated by
Beijing, and not necessarily in an aggressive way. Still, Beijing
wants this process to develop on China's own terms, for example
this week ruling out the usual trilateral meeting with Japan and
South Korea because of its complaints that Japan is not
sufficiently remorseful for its actions in World War II.
And finally there are the original ASEAN members, uncomfortably
aware that they are now part of something far bigger than all of
them. They understandably dread the prospect of great power rivalry
between China and India, or between China and the United States,
and hope that trade links and diplomatic structures like the summit
process will ensure that such rivalries do not get out of hand.
Some local analysts think that because of these fundamental
differences the East Asian summit process is unlikely to endure.
One Malaysian scholar has called it "an empty shell unable to yield
any substantial results," and Indonesia's Jakarta Post published a
decidedly gloomy editorial this week.
"What we will actually see is not what East Asian leaders have long
dreamed of, that is an integrated regional framework of
cooperation, but a community marked rather by suspicion, distrust,
individualism and perhaps unwillingness to sacrifice a minimum of
national autonomy for the sake of pursuing collective and
collaborative action," the paper commented.
If that gloomy forecast holds good, that would not displease the
United States, instinctively suspicious of any international body
designed to exclude it. But if this East Asia summit process,
filled with reliable American friends, fails to prosper, something
much less welcome to Washington, and perhaps more to the taste of
America's critics like Malaysia's Mahathir, will almost certainly
emerge to fill the vacuum.
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