Remarks by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori at "The Future of Asia"
Conference Dinner hosted by Nihon Keizai Shimbun

June 8, 2000

President Abdurrahman Wahid of the Republic of Indonesia, Prime Minister Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, Prime Minister Sisavath Keobounphanh of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the Republic of Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my profound gratitude for having been given the opportunity to speak at this Conference Dinner for the Sixth International Conference on the Future of Asia hosted by Nihon Keizai Shimbun. I have been told that, at today's session, President Wahid and Senior Minister Lee shared with you their valuable thoughts on "Asia's Resurgence: Challenges for the New Millennium."

I am also grateful to the many leaders and people of Asian countries for attending the funeral of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, which was held quietly and sorrowfully today. Former Prime Minister Obuchi did his utmost to assist Asia's economic recovery in the aftermath of the crisis. At this gathering last year, he announced the dispatch of the "Mission for Revitalization of Asian Economy." The recommendations of this mission provided footing for the "Obuchi Plan" for enhancing human resources development and human resources exchanges in East Asia, which he later announced. In addition, he wanted the views of Asian countries to be heard at the forthcoming Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, and pursued dialogue with the leaders of Asian countries. Unfortunately, he was struck down by illness and passed away, just as his efforts began to bear fruit and the path for Asian economic recovery was becoming more visible. Please allow me to offer my heartfelt prayers that he rest in peace.
Former Prime Minister Obuchi's special feeling and affection toward Asia lives on in myself. I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that there has been no change in the policy of the Government of Japan to attach importance to Asia. I am determined to do my utmost for Asia's stability and prosperity in the 21st century, and I hereby ask for the support of all those present here this evening for my endeavors.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Japan regards next month's Kyushu-Okinawa Summit as a forum for taking stock of the 20th century and looking ahead to the 21st century. It is seven years since the G7 Summit meeting was last held in Asia. The venue this time is Okinawa, which has historically had extensive links with other Asian countries. In order to see that the perspectives of other Asian countries are reflected in the discussions, we have taken advantage of every available opportunity to learn their views. There are now just a little more than 40 days before the Summit convenes, and I appreciate such gatherings as this one, which allow me to hear your precious opinions. I want the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit to deliver a positive message which would fill people around the world with hope that the 21st century will be an age of greater prosperity, deeper peace of mind, and greater world stability for all, and that it will be a bright century for Asia as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What kind of tasks should we address and how should Japan collaborate with other Asian countries in order to make the 21st century a bright one for the entire region? Since time is inevitably limited to cover the entire ground at this dinner, I shall focus on the promotion of regional cooperation in Asia.

One of the major trends here on the threshold of the new century is "global capitalism," where economic activities and information spread instantaneously around the world. At the same time, there is a clear trend toward regional integration, as exemplified by birth of the euro as the common currency in the European Union, and the establishment of NAFTA in North America. We, in Asia, too, need to nourish new momentum for regional cooperation spawned by the currency crisis and pursue cooperation open to those from outside the region.

In order to stimulate the flow of people, goods, money, and information in Asia, Japan intends to reinforce cooperation in four fields: human resources development and exchange, trade and investment, financial cooperation for currency stabilization, and information and telecommunications.

Of the four fields, I believe that Asia has tremendous potential for development especially in the field of information and telecommunications. I understand that this Conference on "The Future of Asia" also includes discussion on the IT Revolution. Recognizing that information technology will gain importance as the key to prosperity in both developed and developing countries in the midst of globalization, which is expected to gain momentum as we move further into the 21st century, at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, we would like to exchange views on ways to make the benefits of the IT Revolution available to all of us. As the chair of Group of Eight, Japan intends to exercise leadership in the cooperation with developing countries, and in this sense, I wish to put together a package of comprehensive assistance measures comprising four pillars. The first is intellectual assistance for policy formulation and institution building while promoting the awareness that IT holds opportunities for developing countries as well as developed ones. The second is assistance for human resources development, focusing on programs of training and education. The third is assistance for building the infrastructure and networks for information and telecommunications. And the fourth is promotion of utilization of IT through development aid.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore is advocating the e-ASEAN Initiative and its expanded version - e-Asia Initiative - which includes the neighboring Asian countries in the region. I think that active promotion of these plans will be instrumental in bringing prosperity to Asia in the new century. Japan intends to cooperate actively in the e-Asia Initiative through steps such as assistance for the training of IT personnel and rule-making of electronic commerce, and would like to have consultations with ASEAN at the earliest possible timing.

A major potential obstacle to such regional cooperation is economic disparity, a problem which is becoming increasingly serious as globalization proceeds. The ASEAN 10, in particular, today finds the considerable gap between the newly admitted members and the original ones, a major challenge it needs to address. Widening economic disparity in Asia needs to be addressed seriously and squarely as it may affect the regional stability. In this connection, development of the Mekong River Basin is again coming into the spotlight. Japan remains committed to providing as much assistance for this development as possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Asia, global capitalism presents a challenge, but it also presents an opportunity. We must all work together to take full advantage of this opportunity. Furthermore, in addressing all sorts of problems on a global scale in the 21st century, the international community will have to make more extensive use of the diversity of Asian experience and perspectives. The composition of the UN Security Council, for example, does not sufficiently represent the Asian UN member countries, which total over 50. On such occasions as the UN Millennium Summit this September, Japan intends to pursue Security Council reform to make its membership a better reflection of the realities of today's international community.

Asia's biggest asset lies in its very diversity. In this respect, I see an analogy with rugby, the sport which I loved to play so much in my student days. A rugby team is not always made up of players who are big and strong or fast. There are positions suited for varying levels of build and speed. Only when each player exercises his own particular ability to the fullest can the whole team demonstrate genuine strength. When I played rugby, my position was "fly half," whose role is to bring the best out of the varied mix of talent in the team in order to win the game. I would like to see Japan play the role of "fly half of Asia", bringing the best out of the wisdom and creative mind of each Asian country, in order to yield brilliant achievement on the global stage.

Thank you for your kind attention.


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