East Asia Should Anchor Broad Econ Cooperative Bloc: Nakasone

May 25, 2006

TOKYO (Nikkei)--East Asian nations should participate in a broad economic cooperation bloc as a first step toward creating an East Asian Community, said former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in a speech Thursday.

Speaking at the 12th Future of Asia conference, sponsored by Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc., Nakasone suggested the establishment of an 18-nation cooperation bloc comprising Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Russia and the U.S.

The East Asian Community should be created as a multi-layered structure, starting with the establishment of the economic cooperation bloc, according to Nakasone.

The participation of Russia in the cooperation bloc would be vital because of its rich oil and natural gas reserves, he said, noting shortages of such resources in East Asia. The U.S. also needs to be part of any such structure, given its markets and enormous amount of capital.

The creation of cooperative ties with Europe and members of the North American Free Trade Agreement is also imperative, said Nakasone. The use of the yen and the euro should also be taken into consideration, rather than focusing solely on the U.S. dollar as a key currency, he added.

Nakasone cited special characteristics of the East Asian region such as its peaceful and safe conditions. The close national security ties of East Asian nations with the U.S. may be having an impact in intangible ways, he said.

Nakasone also cited cultural interactions and exchanges that have occurred among East Asian countries, pointing to the popularity of South Korean TV dramas in Japan and the proliferation of Japanese animation overseas. On the economic front, alliances between central banks as well as the signing of free trade agreements have contributed to a strong sense of partnership, said Nakasone.

The region must now tackle topics such as protecting the environment and improving transparency in defense issues, he added.

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