Why is China causing problems for ASEAN

Your Excellencies,
dear attendees,
ladies and gentlemen,

Since last month we have had the unfortunate situation in Asia that there have been several natural disasters of enormous proportions. Myanmar was hit by a devastating cyclone that was followed by a major earthquake in western China. These disasters resulted in a shockingly large number of victims in the affected countries; this fills us all with deep sorrow. At this point, I would like to pause for a moment and pray with all my heart for the salvation of the deceased and express my sincere condolences to the many people who continue to suffer from these tragic events. Japan is providing these countries with the greatest possible support so that aid is immediately available to those affected so that the affected areas can recover and begin their reconstruction without delay. I sincerely hope that the Government of the Union of Myanmar will respond to the goodwill of the international community in an open-minded manner and, together with the international community, get involved in disaster relief and reconstruction.

Before I begin, I would like to give you an overview of some of the most recent developments. Earlier this month, we had the honor of welcoming Chinese President Hu Jintao on a state visit to Japan. At our meetings, we affirmed our common intention to develop "mutual benefit and strategic interests" between Japan and China. We agreed that our countries would make a fresh start. I think it's fair to say that for the first time ever, Sino-Japanese relations have taken a global perspective.

It is undoubtedly of great importance that China, as one of the largest countries, develops in a stable manner. To this end, Japan intends to work with China wherever it can. Personally, I believe that Japan must continue to press ahead with these initiatives with a view to a better future for Asia as a whole.

The spread of this point of view is already evident. President Lee Myung Bak of the Republic of Korea, Japan's closest neighbor, also shares it; we both also agree in our desire to create a "new era" for Japan and the Republic of Korea. I firmly believe that the enormous importance of the new era in trilateral relations between Japan, China and the Republic of Korea is justified by the fact that we have now recognized a shared responsibility for the Asia region, and indeed for the whole world. This fall, the leaders of these three countries are scheduled to meet here in Japan to discuss a number of issues, and I am determined to add further momentum to this development in our relations.

So far I have only mentioned the most recent developments. Today, however, I want to explore the "future of Asia" from a longer-term perspective. I would like to share with you some reflections on where Asia was in the past and where we are going now. In particular, I will use the Pacific as a kind of prism to investigate this topic. I will also make personal promises to you here about the future of Asia and the Pacific.

Thirty years ago, in 1977, Japan formulated the principles of its diplomatic framework for Asia, which later became known as the "Fukuda Doctrine".

Using these principles, our ideal of a relationship has been described as one among colleagues who share benefits and tackle problems together. I firmly believe that there can be no other relationship between Japan and the rest of Asia. With that in mind, I think the Fukuda Doctrine is still valid.

When the Fukuda Doctrine was first formulated, GDP per capita in most Asian countries was around $ 300, at best $ 700. This roughly corresponded to the per capita GDP in the countries of Africa or was even slightly lower. But it was precisely at this time that the Asian countries began to embark on their impressive growth path. These facts have taught us the great power that lies in hopes and skillfully seizing opportunities. At this point I have to express my absolute conviction that what has been achieved in Asia is most certainly also possible for Africa. At the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), which will take place next week in Yokohama, I will call for people to share the experiences made in Asia with Africa and to work to ensure that the strengths of Asia are used in the development of Africa will play a useful role.

Let us now turn to where we are striving in the next thirty years; this is the period to which I would like to draw your attention. What kind of world will we have in thirty years? I would like to present my thoughts to you based on nothing more than my feelings. However, I have in mind the image of a developing Asia that forms a network of countries for which the Pacific is an "inland sea". I believe that the vast expanses of the Pacific will shrink to the size of the Mediterranean and that after these thirty years they will become even smaller.

If we understand the Pacific as an inland sea, then the question arises as to whose “inland sea” it actually is. Obviously it will be an inland sea for Japan and the countries of ASEAN, but also one for North and South America and also for Russia if the development of its Far Eastern region advances. The Pacific will almost certainly function as an inland sea for China and the countries of Indochina, but also for Australia and New Zealand. In my opinion, this inland sea will extend beyond India and connect us with the countries of the Middle East.

I can imagine that for you this thesis that the Pacific Ocean is viewed as an inland sea will come unexpectedly or appear soaring. But let us recall for a moment what the situation in the Mediterranean was like in the 16th century. The French historian Fernand Braudel painted the picture of the Mediterranean Sea as an inland sea on which there was lively exchange between the countries that lay on its coasts, with people and goods being transported on ships that were constantly moving back and forth on its waters.

The Mediterranean Sea stretches over a length of around 3,700 km.

The distance from the conference room we are in now to the Golden Gate Bridge on the west coast of the United States is less than 8,300 km. If we assume that the speed of modern ships is three times faster than that of ships in the 16th century, then we can travel all the way from here to the Golden Gate Bridge in less time than it took back then to get from one end of the Mediterranean to get to the other.

In addition to the speed of the ships, we can take various other factors into account, including telecommunications. I am sure you understand by now that if we refer to the Mediterranean as an inland sea, and even if we only think in terms of ship speeds, the Pacific has already become an inland sea smaller than the Mediterranean in the 16th century. Century

If you take this point of view as a basis, we can expand our psychological view of the region considerably. Now, in the 21st century, we should give up the shortsighted psychological division - a relic from the 20th century - that divides the Pacific into western and eastern parts. Isn't it like a heavy burden would fall off our shoulders if we could overcome this mindset? I feel that we should accept this change in perspective appropriate to people who want to turn the Pacific Ocean into a true “inland sea”.

Seen in this light, the key concept is certainly “openness”. We sincerely hope to unlock the unlimited potential of the region together with our friends in Asia and the Pacific. To do this, the starting point for the people of Japan must be to live in the midst of openness and diversity, and to open themselves to the great diversity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

The countries that surround the Pacific already generate around 60% of global GDP and their trade comprises more than 40% of total world trade. If we look at the "coastline" of this future Pacific inland sea in thirty years, we will certainly find the top ten or similar economic powers here. Think first of Japan, the United States and China, but then also of the Republic of Korea, India and ASEAN, whose integration continues, and of Russia - who can even imagine how far these economies have developed in thirty years become?

I recently visited Russia, where I met with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for talks about working together for the stability of the region. Russia seems to have recently shifted its focus to the Far East region and is trying to forge closer ties with the Asia-Pacific region to further the development of Russia's Far East region and eastern Siberia. I took this opportunity to tell my interlocutors that for this reason too it was necessary for Russia to conclude a peace treaty with Japan. I think that if Russia were to deepen its ties with Japan and align itself more closely with Asia and the Pacific, it would also provide Russia itself with additional growth opportunities while also helping the Asia-Pacific region as a whole thrive.

I would now like to turn your attention to South Asia, which is a fine treasure trove of young and well-educated human resources, particularly in the field of advanced technology. I think that you will surely agree with me when I say that India is without a doubt one of the pillars on which Asia's future rests.

From this point of view, I believe that we should all appreciate the geographic location that we are blessed with. Our “neighborhood” is characterized by increasing abundance; Furthermore, we are at a time and a place where people, goods, capital and knowledge cross the Pacific Ocean in all directions, making it an inland sea. I believe Japan should carefully consider working with the countries of Asia, the United States, and others to promote economic partnership, while adding even greater impetus to the international division of economic activity and to the production and distribution networks within the Asia-Pacific region .

Asia is at the forefront today as a major player in world history. This region is a network of never-ending expansion and development linked to the rest of the globe by the sea.

However, such a network will not just develop on its own. Rather, the Asian countries should broaden their view of the Pacific and develop their capacities to help create this network. In addition, we have to improve the environment required for this. So the question before us is what exactly we need to do to shape this network.

I would like to give you my promises here, which I would like to implement in five areas.

My first promise to you is that Japan will strongly support ASEAN's efforts to create a community that is already making determined and decisive progress.

ASEAN is not only located in the region that is the key to this network of the Pacific Ocean, but has also played a central role in regional cooperation in East Asia and the Pacific over the past thirty years. ASEAN members have continuously sent a message of cooperation and integration to Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. The people of ASEAN are extremely committed to overcoming the economic disparities within ASEAN; they are also currently in the process of drawing up the ASEAN charter, which is based on generally applicable values.

I believe ASEAN's stability and prosperity are also in Japan's interests. For this reason, I am determined to support ASEAN's efforts to create an ASEAN community by 2015. My intention is to increase the cooperation that Japan has been doing so far. Japan would like to set up the post of ambassador responsible for ASEAN as soon as the ASEAN Charter comes into force, and I can imagine that not much later the Japanese Permanent Representative will be set up in ASEAN.

Recently, relations between Japan and ASEAN have taken a big step forward; I am referring, of course, to the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between ASEAN and Japan (AJCEP). There is no doubt that this agreement will give a great boost to the creation of a single market within the ASEAN region.

However, I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary for us to eliminate economic inequality within ASEAN so that this uniform market can develop robustly. I hereby declare the next thirty years "thirty years to overcome the developmental gaps in Asia" and suggest that we work together to achieve this goal.

Specifically, as part of its support to the countries of the Mekong region, Japan is helping, in addition to various efforts to overcome disparities within the region, to help shape a corridor that stretches east to west across all of Indochina. This engagement will connect the members of ASEAN who have no direct access to the sea to the Pacific network I just spoke about. This “east-west corridor” will extend across Myanmar and reach India and thus undoubtedly contribute to an even more dynamic development of the region.

There are a number of issues that Japan would like to tackle with ASEAN members; this includes reconciling environmental protection and economic growth, energy efficiency and energy saving, or efforts to ensure food security. The steps we have taken to prevent the spread of avian flu are just a good example of our collaborative commitment.

In this way, relations between Japan and ASEAN members have reached a considerable depth over the past thirty years. My promise to you is that Japan and ASEAN will be “partners who think together, act together and share a vision of the future” and that this partnership will endure.

The second promise I make to you is that Japan will expand its alliance with the United States into something of a public good for the Asia-Pacific region.

It goes without saying that the United States is one of the most important members of the Asia-Pacific region. I regularly speak of the creation of "synergies" in the measures to strengthen the Japanese-American alliance and in promoting policy on Asia. Elements of instability and uncertainty persist in Asia, such as the problems associated with North Korea. Solving the problems on the Korean Peninsula is absolutely essential for the stable development of all of Northeast Asia.The Japanese-American Alliance is now more than just a means of ensuring the security of Japan; it also serves as an instrument for the stability of Asia and the Pacific as a whole. The Asia region therefore has the potential to become a place where we can see the future better than anywhere else - in other words, a place characterized by low risks and a peace of mind, where trade and cultural exchange meet can unfold without restrictions. This will be a cornerstone for Asia to flourish.

Let me now move on to my third promise, namely to develop Japan itself into "a peace promoting country" that spares no efforts to work for peace in Asia, the Pacific and around the world.

In order to create sea routes that focus on the waters around the Strait of Malacca that are free from pirates and cannot be used by terrorists, Japan intends to expand cooperation with other countries, particularly with ASEAN members. As part of the fight against terrorism, we are conducting refueling activities in the Indian Ocean and we will continue to do so.

In view of our commitment to peacebuilding, an area where we have gained experience in Cambodia and East Timor, Japan recently launched a human resource development program to train peacekeeping experts. It is our goal that in the near future these trained experts from Japan and other Asian countries will also go to regions outside of Asia and work shoulder to shoulder there as they work for the consolidation of peace.

In addition, I would like to promote a “foreign policy for cooperation in disaster management”. Asia has experienced a number of major natural disasters in recent years, ranging from flood disasters to cyclones to severe earthquakes. In order to develop the capacity to respond to these natural disasters, Japan is already committed to promoting “cooperation in disaster management”. In addition to other means, it also uses its state development aid for this; this cooperation initially extends to the ASEAN members and will later also include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

My intention is, together with the other Asian countries, to consider building a network between the disaster relief organizations that already exist in Asia and creating a structure that enables immediate and coordinated operations in the field of disaster relief in the event of a major natural disaster. I believe that we should take immediate steps to create what, given the measures already under way against avian flu, could best be described as the "Control Network for Disaster and Infectious Disease Management in Asia".

Fourth, it is my intention to step up efforts in the field of youth exchanges. As a necessary prerequisite for the entire spectrum of cooperation, Japan will promote and further develop the infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region for intellectual exchange as well as for exchange between the generations. Japan has already embarked on a "300,000 Exchange Student Plan". As part of the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths Program (JENESYS Program), we invite 6,000 young people from all over Asia every year.

I also hope to be able to significantly expand our inter-university exchange with the Asia-Pacific region, and I would like to exchange ideas with experts in Japan and abroad so that this project can be decided at the East Asia Summit, which will take place at the end of this year. Here I would like to remind you of the "Erasmus program" that has existed in Europe since the 1980s; I want to create what can be called the Asian version of this program.

With regard to the “Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia” (ERIA), which was recently launched, it is my intention to develop this institute into an organization that will in future play a role similar to the OECD in this region ; this is done in the expectation that the Asia-Pacific region will become a center of dynamic development.

Finally, my fifth pledge relates to the challenge of climate change. However, this is something that Japan cannot do on its own.

We mustn't kid ourselves: it is our Asia region that will develop into the most important growth center on earth. At the same time, however, it is almost certain that our region will also become the largest center for greenhouse gas emissions. The problem of climate change will be one of the main themes at the G8 summit, which Japan will host in six weeks in Toyako, Hokkaido. This is an area that requires an effort from everyone so that we can agree as quickly as possible on a succession plan to reduce emissions for the period from 2013 onwards and to achieve a low-carbon society.

With this in mind, during his recent visit to Japan, Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed his open minded attitude, which makes us feel very encouraged. Japan is able to provide assistance in various ways in solving the problem of climate change and we sincerely hope to continue working with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

These are the five promises I made to you with a view to the future of the Asia-Pacific region: firstly, to strongly support the integration and development of ASEAN; secondly, to strengthen the Japanese-American alliance; thirdly, to fulfill our responsibilities as one “Country promoting peace”, fourthly, the development of the infrastructure for intellectual exchange and an exchange between the generations, which underpin the future of our region through the exchange of young people. And fifth, the need to master the challenge of reconciling economic growth and environmental protection, and of tackling climate change, through joint efforts.

Thirty years ago no one could have foreseen what this day would hold in store for us, so it is difficult for us today to predict what the world will look like in thirty years from now. Everything has two sides: a good one and a bad one. There may well be times when the stormy waves of change can create instability in the order of the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the challenges we face, preparing for climate change and trying to mitigate it requires commitment from all of us. The same goes for water, as well as for energy and food safety. As further major challenges that lie ahead of us, we must also keep an eye on the population explosion and the concentration of people in urban regions. If, in the future, we do not have the framework for better governance locally - and it may sound like a prediction when I say this, but here I mean governance that is transparent, democratic and based on the principles of the rule of law - then it will it will not be possible for us to overcome the social turmoil or nip these problems in the bud.

It is precisely these times when difficult problems arise before us that I hope that Japan will then prove to be a country that can be relied on, or on which others place their hopes for cooperation as colleagues or partners.

Japan has overcome a number of major problems in the past. The pollution in my country at the time of the Tokyo Olympics 44 years ago was extremely severe. Fifteen years ago the bubble economy collapsed, as a result of which we also suffered from a serious deflationary recession. However, we used the oil shock 35 years ago as an opportunity to improve our energy efficiency and solve a large part of our environmental problems. Japan is a country that is usually fraught with a considerable number of problems, but at the same time we are a country that manages to overcome its problems.

For despite the fact that our society today is blessed with great material abundance, Japan has never lost sight of its philosophy of “mottainai”, a special sense of avoiding waste that keeps us from throwing away things that are still one can use. It seems to me that we have a particular culture that serves as the basis for attaining the lifestyle necessary to tackle a new challenge, which is the creation of a low-carbon society. With that in mind, I hope that when the countries in the Asia-Pacific region face different problems they will see Japan as an equal to share experiences with and ask my country how it has overcome these problems.

I believe that the relationships that are most appropriate for the Asia-Pacific region today are those in which we learn from and inspire one another. In Japan we have a number of problems that need to be resolved over the next few years. In my opinion, Japan can learn a lot from other countries in the Asia-Pacific region in areas such as increasing women's participation in society, as Japan has some catching up to do here; The same is true of increasing FDI, which is currently rather low in Japan, and determining how best to use Asia's extraordinarily capable human resources. I also suspect that people from across the Asia-Pacific region are keen to watch Japan try to find a solution to the problem of its aging population, which is accompanied by a decline in births. Japan itself must also develop into a country with greater openness. Relationships in which we learn from one another and encourage one another are clearly the goal to aim for. If the countries and people in this region, with its incredible diversity, put their heads together to tackle the problems, then we will perhaps find solutions much more quickly.

I hope that within the great growth trend that will dynamically shape Asia and make the Pacific Ocean an inland sea, Japan will take on a certain role and expand the areas in which it operates and act as a center of stability and Development will act.

It is crucial that all people in the Asia-Pacific region work together to create relationships of mutual trust - in other words: “act together”.

The Asia-Pacific region is an expanding dynamic network with the sea acting as a giant mediator. I would like to conclude today's talk by saying that Japan and its people need to develop bonds of "acting together" with the people of this region, while at the same time strengthening "heart-to-heart trust."

Thank you for your attention.

(The manuscript of this lecture was written for News from Japan slightly abbreviated and translated into German.)

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