E Asian Community Limited To ASEAN, Japan, China, S Korea: Mahathir

May 26, 2006

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad reiterated Friday that only Southeast Asian countries, Japan, China and South Korea should be allowed to join the proposed East Asian Community.

Even though Australia and New Zealand participated in the region's first summit held last year in Kuala Lumpur, Mahathir believes the two nations are not qualified to be members of the East Asian Community.

"Their attitudes, the way they think, represent those of Europeans. They are not able to understand the Asian way of doing things," he said at a Tokyo forum.

However, "India should be considered one of the (future) members of the (East Asian) community," Mahathir said. When Malaysia proposed the idea of closer regional economic integration through the creation of the East Asian Economic Group in 1990, India was still a closed society and not well integrated with other economies in the region, he said. "India has changed (since then). It is now willing to accept foreign investment."

Mahathir was speaking at the "Future of Asia" conference, a two-day gathering organized by Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc.

Mahathir emphasized that Japan, China and South Korea have much to learn from Germany and France in overcoming enmity and tension resulting from historical developments. While Germany and France had fought many brutal wars, "after World War II they decided to put priority on the future rather than the past," he said. "And now the European Union is a very real thing."

"We must learn this ability to downgrade the past and think instead about the present and the future," Mahathir said. "If Japan, China and South Korea can downgrade the past and think about the future together, we will be able to form a good grouping (whose members) will help each other develop."

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