Spotlight on Geopolitics

The second trilateral summit between China, South Korea and Japan ended this Saturday in Beijing with a commitment by prime minister Wen Jiabao, Japanese premier Hatoyama and South Korean president Lee to further strengthen ties between the three countries and to push together for the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
During the summit premier Hatoyama outlined his concept of an East-Asian community, modelled after the European Union. He told his Chinese and South Korean counterparts that it was high time to rely less on United States markets and to focus their countries’ economic activity on Asia :
“It could be said that we have so far depended on the United States too much,” he said. “While the Japanese-U.S. alliance is important, I want to devise policies that focus more on Asia, as a member of Asia.”

Hatoyama believes that Japan, China and South Korea should be the nucleus of an East-Asian community and to this end he wants to “start by strengthening economic cooperation and then work to strengthen exchanges at the cultural and social levels” .

The Chinese and Japanese premiers do not as yet share similar concepts concerning the future Asian economic community, however. Whilst the Chinese want to limit the size of the projected community to Japan, South Korea and the ten ASEAN countries, Japan would like to see countries like India and Australia as part of it.

These economic integration plans are a worry for United States diplomats who fear that America is going to be excluded from the Asia-Pacific region. In an article written before the summit, Wall Street Journal’s Yuka Hayashi quotes Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, who said in an interview with TV Tokyo in late September: “It’s not in America’s interest to see a dialogue or a formation come together that excludes the United States”.

Like it or not, such integration plans seem poised to go ahead, even in the absence of America’s blessing. This second summit between the three leaders follows the one in December 2008 and is a direct result of the turmoil provoked by the financial crisis. Needless to mention, the nations of Asia have assigned the blame for the latter squarely on Wall Street’s speculators and lax regulation from Washington. From their perspective, which started to take shape after the 1998 crisis, the hardworking people of Asia should be sheltered from financial meltdowns caused by New York-based unscrupulous or irresponsible financial market operators.

The current crisis, as this summit amply proves, has only strengthened the resolve of Asian political leaders to create an economic community powerful enough to deal on an equal footing with NAFTA and the European Union and to eliminate their post-war economic dependence on the US for good.

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