Address by Mr. Masayoshi Hamada,
Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs,
on the Occasion of the East Asia Roundtable 2007

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU),
June 2, 2007

(photo) (photo)

Chancellor Kawaguchi,
President Cassim,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be able to speak to you today at this Roundtable, which takes up the very timely and important topic of Community Building in Diversity. I would like to extend my warmest welcome on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan to all the participants who have gathered here from around East Asia and elsewhere. Please also allow me to extend my deep respect and appreciation to Chancellor Kawaguchi, President Cassim, and the many other dedicated people here at Ritsumeikan and elsewhere who have worked so tirelessly towards the successful convening of this meeting.

This city of Beppu is where my colleague at the Foreign Ministry, Senior Vice-Minister Takeshi Iwaya was born. He is now on an official visit to African countries, so, in fact, I came here instead. And one of today's keynote speakers, Governor Katsusada Hirose of Oita Prefecture, was my senior at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. He was responsible for recruitment when I entered the Ministry, so I was under a great obligation to him. It is therefore a great honor and privilege for me to be able to share my views today here at this Roundtable.

East Asia now finds itself standing at a major turning point in history. Here in 2007 it has been exactly a decade since the economic crisis that sparked a deepening of regional cooperation. We find that rapid economic growth, combined with a wave of globalization, has given rise to an intensification of intraregional mutual interdependence never seen before. To take trade relations as just one example, East Asian intraregional trade as a proportion of its total trade volume stood at 33.6% in 1980, but rose to 55.9% in 2004. While this is less than the 65.7% that has been achieved by the European Union, it represents a degree of interconnectedness exceeding that of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or "NAFTA," region, where the proportion of intraregional trade is 43.5%.

In addition, a mutual sense of community felt among the young people in various countries around the region is being deepened through the spread of the Internet and mobile phones and through pop culture as symbolized by Japanese anime and Korean soap-operas. What's more, the movement of people between countries through tourism is now also commonplace. Incidentally, Kyushu enjoys a substantial relationship with Asia in particular, even more so than other places in Japan. If you look at the statistics on what percentage of the non-Japanese visiting Kyushu are from Asia, you will find that the figure is more than 20 percentage points higher here in Kyushu than the national average in Japan.

While economic growth has raised people's standard of living substantially and East Asia has been likened to a "growth center of the global economy," the region is still characterized by various uncertainties. China and India, both major nations having over a billion people, have simultaneously achieved high economic growth, and it can be said that geopolitical changes unprecedented in the history of the world are now underway.

Besides the traditional security issues that still exist on the Korean peninsula and across the Taiwan Strait, in recent years new types of threats have become evident, including avian influenza, terrorism, piracy, and large-scale natural disasters. I would argue that in East Asia, the emergence of various regional cooperation frameworks such as ASEAN+3, the East Asia Summit, and APEC is a reflection of countries' efforts to overcome these common regional issues, ensure peace and stability, and work towards enhanced prosperity.

In ensuring the long-term peace and prosperity of East Asia through the promotion of regional cooperation, diversity-the theme of this conference-becomes a critical point. The diversity apparent in so many aspects of the region, ranging from our political and economic systems to our cultures and religions, is on one hand a factor for instability, and yet at the same time it has the potential to be a source of great dynamism and vitality for us.

I believe that a starting point for our discussions here at this conference will be found in viewing diversity-a given in our region-in a positive light. In other words, we need to look at how to maximize out of our diversity the energy that leads to growth while minimizing discord among nations, societies, and cultures. To explain this in more concrete terms I would like to present to you three main points.

In order to transform the region's diversity into an asset, first of all it is important that we do not attempt to make regional cooperation fit into an overly rigid framework from the start with regard to its composition of members or its structure. It is instead necessary for us to envision a highly flexible architecture through which relevant countries can make the best use of their individual characteristics to contribute to regional development, in keeping with the nature of the particular issue being dealt with. Japan has been engaged in efforts to further the development of various regional cooperative frameworks, notably APEC, ASEAN+3, and the East Asia Summit. This is because Japan emphasizes a "functional" approach, which is the most conducive to the resolution of diverse issues.

With regard to this point, it was a truly significant development when the region's heads of state-including the leaders of China and India, whose energy needs are increasing dramatically, as well as Australia, a major producer of coal, uranium, and other energy resources-held focused discussions on the common regional issue of energy security in January at the Second East Asia Summit in Cebu, the Philippines. Japan, as a nation with responsibility for the growth of the region as a whole, has been providing concrete forms of assistance to the countries participating in this East Asia Summit, including the promotion of energy conservation.

At the same time, as my second point, it is necessary to make conscious efforts to foster within the region the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and transparency in governmental administration and in military capacity so as to ensure stability within this context of diversity. Of course, we do not think of this as an ideological confrontation, as existed in the Cold War era. Instead, this is a natural extension of how, through ODA and foreign direct investment, Japan shared its post-war "recipe for success," with the founding members of ASEAN and other countries in the region.

The objective of creating an Arc of Freedom and Prosperity, which Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso announced in a policy speech last November, is an excellent example of one part of this undertaking. From that perspective, ASEAN's efforts to formulate an ASEAN Charter, which can be said to be a "constitution" helping the region achieve greater freedom and prosperity, are an extremely encouraging development.

As my third point today, in order for a sense of community to be fostered little by little from within this diversity, it will be indispensable for our nations' younger generations to deepen their mutual understanding and feel a sense of affinity with each other through active exchanges within the region. At the Second East Asia Summit, Japanese Prime Minister Abe announced the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths, so-called the JENESYS Program, through which 6,000 youths from around Asia will be invited to Japan annually for the next five years. Through this kind of large-scale youth exchange, Japan intends to help create the foundations for robust Asian solidarity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

East Asia is a region whose diversity greatly exceeds even that found in Europe. In order to transform that diversity into dynamism and bring about greater prosperity for the region, it will be imperative to enhance the predictability and the stability of the region through these three key elements. Japan will be sparing no efforts in working towards the creation of a regional community that will contribute to the expansion of mutual understanding and common interests.

On the occasion of this Roundtable, the Government of Japan is pleased to have provided support through its Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) contributions to the ASEAN Secretariat, thereby helping to foster ASEAN integration and, by extension, East Asian regional integration.

In closing my remark, I very much hope that all the participants are able to enjoy the hot springs that in recent years have attracted so many tourists from Korea, Taiwan, and all around Asia. As President Cassim stated at the outset, Beppu is one of the most popular hot springs in Japan. I also hope that your stay here in Beppu provides you with the opportunity to learn firsthand about traditional Japanese culture as well as the lifestyle of the typical Japanese citizen. It is my sincere wish that the discussions held at this Roundtable become a meaningful contribution towards the realization of open regional integration rooted in sustainable functional cooperation in East Asia.

Thank you for your kind attention this morning.

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