East Asia partnership must be directed to future without division and confrontation
Having agreed with Indonesia to enter negotiation for an economic partnership agreement (EPA) based on a free trade agreement (FTA) and to achieve an East Asia Community, Japan has concluded three EPAs with two East Asian countries and Mexico and is negotiating with four other countries. Japan has begun talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). East Asia, which comprises ASEAN members and Japan, China, and South Korea, accounts for over 50 percent of Asia's intra-regional trade. The amount of Japan-China trade is greater than that of Japan-U.S. trade. Economic interdependence is thus increasing among these countries. Against this background, establishing an East Asian community has emerged as a common goal (Japan-ASEAN summit declaration in December, 2003).
Regional cooperation must be on equal and reciprocal footing
Although a specific plan for the union is not in place, both the government and private sectors in the region are in favor of forming a community through developing cooperation in many ways, including economic cooperation.
Recently, some have begun to argue that the Community should stand for a particular social system and ideas. Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura Nobutaka said that relations with countries with different political systems and ideologies need to be assessed according to their degrees of evolution. In the Council on East Asia Community, consisting of politicians, bureaucrats, business people, and academics, opinions virtually calling for a capitalist system in the name of "freedom and democracy" to replace the abstract ideals of "peace, prosperity and progress" were expressed.
FTAs and EPAs are aimed at promoting the interests of each country with different political and economic systems by taking advantage of regional cooperation to resolve international problems and adjust domestic efforts. If the roles of FTA and EPA are to pave the way to establish the East Asian Community, it is necessary, while acknowledging these differences, to establish a multifaceted framework of cooperation backed by bilateral and multilateral channels. Any proposal that calls for an order under a specific system and ideal will just hamper the cause.
Regional cooperation in East Asia, the Americas, and other regions must be based on the principles of mutual equality and benefits, not on division and confrontation, namely, a principle of peaceful co-existence.
Many Asian countries have worked to develop these systems of peaceful cooperation specifically through the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).
Increase efforts for peace
India, Australia, and New Zealand are considering participating in the East Asia Summit talks late this year with the ten ASEAN-member states plus Japan, China, and South Korea. Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has complained about the lack of U.S. presence in the summit.
Armitage also says that Japan and other U.S. allies will speak for the United States. The Japanese government stands at a crossroads over a choice between continuing to represent U.S. interests in Asia and establishing an independent foreign policy as a member of Asia in cooperation with other Asian countries in making efforts for peace, equality, and mutual benefits.
In this regard, we must recall that Japan is the only Asian country to wage war of aggression and colonize this region. Today, Japan must maintain the constitutional principles of peace and the policy of co-existence in order to contribute to the success of the East Asian Community.
At issue is Prime Minister's Yasukuni Shrine visits glorifying the war of aggression. This must be resolved before Japan can move toward a cooperative existence in Asia. -Akahata, June 8, 2005
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