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"East Asia Needs Innovative Diplomacy"

June 7, 2001

Domingo L. Siazon, Jr.
Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, The Philippines

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking Nikkei Shimbun for inviting me once again to participate in my personal capacity, in this important conference. Our region, East Asia, has economic and security issues that concern all of us. The collision between Chinese and American military aircrafts over the South China Sea last April Fool's Day is just a reminder of the fact that we may have to concentrate more on the security issues.

Indeed, our region has endured more than its share of challenges.

Through the late nineteen-eighties and -nineties, East Asian countries strove to create a new regional security and economic architecture suited to the realities of a post-Cold War world. Inclusive and non-confrontational security cooperation was initiated with the creation of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). On the economic side, APEC was launched to foster open regionalism, wherein economies could reinforce one another through mutually supportive growth in trade and investment supplemented with economic and technical cooperation.

In Manila, the historic ASEAN-plus-Three Summit of 1999 brought together the countries of Southeast and Northeast Asia. The Summit decided to accelerate regional cooperation and consultation to create an East Asian community. Following this ground-breaking decision, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand agreed at the recent ADB meeting in Hawaii to establish currency-swapping arrangements. These are the initial manifestations of closer joint efforts to bolster the regional economy that may eventually lead towards an Asian Monetary Fund.

East Asia is searching for a true vision of regional community that will replace the strategic divisions and ideological antagonism of the old Cold War. This new vision should foster a fresh regional security and economic order where every country will feel less insecure and more confident next to its neighbors.

We, in East Asia, mindful of our own past, have seen the peoples of Europe build a strong regional community among themselves that triumphed over their historic legacies of conflict. The European Union brought together France and Germany, formerly bitter enemies who had fought three major wars since 1870, with thirteen other diverse nations under the broad roof of one European home. This is a truly magnificent achievement of regional cooperation.

East Asia may have to take a different and perhaps more difficult path in founding a regional community. Yet we must boldly face this new challenge. We must bend our will, our creativity and our endeavors towards this end for there is no other way of securing our longer-term peace and stability.

In our quest for an East Asian community, we must have the enlightened cooperation of the larger powers. The United States, Japan and China must learn to accept that there is correlation between a nation's economic growth and its legitimate political and strategic aspirations. From this perspective, the emergence of several poles of influence in our region is a natural development.

The continuing presence in East Asia of the United States as an Asia-Pacific power is nonetheless essential for the preservation of regional security. The American presence has guaranteed the general peace that allowed many countries in the region to devote themselves to nation-building at home and good neighborly policies abroad.

Recent moves by the United States to place more importance on its alliance with Japan are welcome in this context. The United States and Japan are the two largest economies in the world and must contribute to East Asian economic and political stability. To render the US-Japan alliance more effective, Japan's National Defense Program Outline (NDPO), the 1996 Joint Security Declaration and the 1997 Revision of the Defense Cooperation Guidelines, should all be implemented as quickly as possible.

East Asia must also learn to deal with the reality of China's rise as a regional power. Two decades of exceptional economic growth have made Beijing confident in projecting its influence abroad and in asserting its claims to China's "ancient territories," even with the use of force where it deems necessary. Chinese adventurism would destabilize the whole region, but a cooperative China that plays by international rules would have enormous potential for good.

And in the future, rapprochement between the two Koreas may produce a single state on the Korean Peninsula for the first time in centuries that is both economically potent and militarily powerful. This would have profound implications for the strategic environment of our region. It is my hope that when the day of rapprochement dawns, an East Asian community would have grown sufficiently strong enough to tame any possible rivalry between Chinese, Japanese and Korean nationalism.

The relationship between the United States and China will be increasingly pivotal to our region's prospects. President George Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top US officials have repeatedly said that China is neither a strategic partner nor an inevitable or implacable foe. Washington and Beijing know that despite their differences, and there are many, a stable bilateral relationship between them is in the American and Chinese national interest.

This is the basic strategic understanding that we hope the leadership of both the United States and China will abide by. Clear-headed diplomacy must broaden the areas of peaceable cooperation and must reduce the ground for dangerous competition between these two great nations.

We can be somewhat encouraged by how the United States and China managed their recent aircraft collision incident. Clearly, Washington and Beijing tried hard to preserve overall Sino-American relations in the face of contrary pressures from conservative elements on both sides. We hope the United States and China will try to clarify issues further through dialogue when President Bush visits China.

Moreover, the United States and China have a responsibility towards the rest of us to do so. They must work together with us to ensure closer regional consultation in East Asia. In this regard, I believe the United States and China can cooperate extensively on regional security matters. Regional initiatives to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the export of missile technology merit their support. Furthermore, the United States and China ought to work together and with other countries to encourage North Korea to remain in the NPT, to accept full IAEA nuclear safeguards in compliance with the NPT and to stop exporting missile technology and developing longer-range missiles.

I appreciate that stability on the Korean Peninsula calls for continued vigilance and greater reciprocity in talks by all parties. However, without talks, there can be no final negotiated peace. In this context, the 1994 Agreed Framework, which opened the door for last year's historic North-South Korean Summit, is a basis for ongoing dialogue.

I am, therefore, happy that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has indicated that the United States does intend to resume its dialogue with North Korea. Hopefully, this will happen in time for President Kim Dae Jung to see the positive outcome of his Sunshine Policy.

On a higher level, I believe Washington and Beijing have an interest in promoting multilateralism in East Asia. We all want to ensure respect for international agreements and treaties that are the foundation of a rules-based international order. Respect for the rule of law by the great powers is particularly important for smaller nations that seek greater security and predictability in the region.

For this reason, I believe that the ABM Treaty, which has done much for strategic stability, ought to be observed by its states-party. Its amendment or termination should have the consent of all parties.

At the same time, I support American plans to develop modern missile defenses, because there is a credible missile threat against the United States and other countries that comes from quarters other than the Nuclear-Weapon States. The US Government, like any other government, has the duty to defend its citizens from such threats, particularly from weapons of mass destruction. The proposal of President Bush to drastically reduce the American ICBM arsenal in conjunction with a missile defense program is also very welcome.

The United States has conveyed its views on missile defense to Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, the EU and other interested nations. Earlier, President Vladimir Putin even presented to NATO an idea for joint missile defense. Continued consultations on missile defense and non-proliferation are vital.

East Asia's challenges are not limited to the security sphere. Globalization is an enormous problem and opportunity as well. As the largest and most prosperous economy in the world, the United States leads the process of globalization in the Asia-Pacific, which naturally affects East Asia. East Asian developing nations, particularly the members of ASEAN, look to the United States to help increase assistance from the Bretton Woods institutions and the Asian Development Bank for the oftentimes-painful adjustment that their globalization requires.

In a recent International Herald Tribune article, Dr. Julius Parenas called for the United States to help Southeast Asia get itself together. He described Southeast Asia as the Balkans of East Asia. I am not as pessimistic as Dr. Parenas, but I am worried about the consequences if Washington fails to back ASEAN's efforts to foster Southeast Asian stability and its role in regional security dialogue.

When it comes to assisting ASEAN, no country can compare with Japan. Japan provides the largest share of ODA to ASEAN member-states, while Japanese investment has enabled many of them to benefit substantially from participation in the global economy and to raise the standard of living of their people.

From our region's recent experience with peacekeeping in East Timor and Cambodia, we know Japan must have a larger role in collective security more commensurate with its economic status. The decision to assume such a role rests with the Japanese themselves, but it also concerns other nations.

If Japan transforms itself into a more "normal country" that can fulfill security as well as economic responsibilities in the region, this should be done taking into account the sensitivities of Japan's neighbors. This is where we may usefully study, as I suggested earlier, the European example of regional community-building, which succeeded in overcoming the heavy historical burden of the past in order to secure the present and to plan for the future.

I would like to now close with some words of wisdom from my Thai friend: "When elephants quarrel or make love, it is the grass that gets trampled upon." In East Asia, we must tame our elephants and our elephant-like memories of history. We can do so if we work together with vision, goodwill and determination to realize a regional community that can encompass, fairly and generously, the hopes and dreams of all.

This is the task of no less than a generation. Let us begin this task today.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.