Speech by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi At Dinner for International Symposium "The Future of Asia" Organized by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun

May 21, 2002

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines,
His Excellency Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia,
His Excellency Bounnhang Vorachith, Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening.

I had the pleasure of attending this dinner for the International Conference - "The Future of Asia" last year as well and spelled out my basic thoughts regarding our relations with other Asian countries and the future of Asia.

Today I wish to focus on China and regional cooperation in Asia in line with the theme for this year's symposium "Emerging China and the Changing Regional Framework."

The rapid change in China these days are truly breathtaking. When I visited Shanghai last year for the first time in eight years to attend the APEC Informal Leaders' Meeting I found that its scenery and functions as a city had become no less spectacular than those of New York and Tokyo.

As China has gained economic strength rapidly and acceded to the WTO there are people who regard China as a threat. I believe that it is important to view China in the right perspectives without regarding it as larger than life.

China's coastal regions continue to enjoy rapid growth. Yet, people in the inland provinces remain mired in poverty. To make matters worse, the inland region, where agriculture is the major industry, is only expected to suffer as a result of China's membership in the WTO. Environmental destruction resulting from poverty and rapid economic growth is alarming, and yellow sand, acid rain and other environmental problems are spreading their footprint on its neighboring Japan and Korea.

It will be desirable not only for Japan but for other countries in the region as well and, in fact, for the entire world if China manages to overcome these challenges and grow into an open market economy.

Economic development is not everything, however. For China to play a role commensurate with its size in this region, it is essential that China respects universal values and the rules of the international community.

At times we experience difficulties with China. These problems, I believe, need to be addressed calmly in accordance with the principles of international law bearing in mind the broader framework of Japan-China relationship that is important for the world and this region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In recent years, China has been an active participant in the regional dialogue and cooperation in the context of ASEAN+3, Japan-China-Korea, etc, and has floated constructive proposals. This positive attitude by China has been an important factor behind the accelerating pace of regional cooperation in East Asia.

During my trip to ASEAN countries early this year I proposed five initiatives to build up functional cooperation in East Asia upon the foundation of Japan-ASEAN relations. As part of those five initiatives I advocated the strengthening of economic partnership between Japan and ASEAN in broad areas including trade and investment liberalization. Such endeavors with ASEAN, I hope, will lead to closer economic partnership in the entire East Asian region in the future.

It also should be meaningful for the countries in the region to engage in an open dialogue on not just economic matters but on issues that threaten the peace and stability of the region as well. Japan will place particular emphasis on cooperation regarding "transnational issues" such as terrorism, piracy, narcotics and trafficking in persons, etc.

As I have so far described Japan shall promote regional cooperation in diverse fields and play an active role for a bright future of Asia.

Thank you for your kind attention

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