Toward the Creation of A Bright Future for Asia

Toward the Creation of A Bright Future for Asia
Policy speech by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi
at the Lecture Program hosted by the Institute for International Relations, Hanoi, Vietnam December 16, 1998

Their Excellencies, Ministers of the Government of Vietnam, Dr. Vu Duong Huan, Acting Director of the Institute for International Relations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a singular honor for me to share my thoughts on the vision for Asia in the 21st century and, especially, Japan’s Asia policy with the leaders of the government of Vietnam and distinguished intellectuals. May I thank sincerely Director Huan and all the others concerned for providing me with this opportunity today. May I also heartily commend you for successfully hosting the ASEAN Summit meeting only three years after becoming a member of ASEAN. Having seen the cityscape with many high rises after arriving here for this visit – my first to Vietnam in 7 years since 1991 – I have been deeply impressed by the development Vietnam has achieved under the Doimoi policy. I understand that numerous challenges remain as you implement the Doimoi policy. Having grown during an era when the scars of war remained all around, however, I very much sympathize with the Vietnamese people who are striving to build the nation overcoming the numerous difficulties left behind by perennial warfare.

As president of the Japan-Vietnam Parliamentarians’ Friendship League and chairman of the Japan-Vietnam Cultural Exchange Association, I have done my utmost over the years to promote the relations between Japan and Vietnam. I, therefore, am extremely gratified that I have been able to visit Vietnam in this milestone year of the 25th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. I am convinced that the friendly and cooperative relations between our countries and our peoples will only grow stronger in the coming 25 years.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past quarter of a century our countries as well as other East Asian countries have achieved economic development that has become the envy of the rest of the world by overcoming the devastation of war or the turmoil over independence from colonial rule. I believe that this development has been underpinned by diligence, patience, steadiness and care for others, which are all part of the Asian tradition.Asian countries, however, have been buffeted by serious economic difficulties due to the currency crisis since the summer of last year. Some people now suggest that the “Asian miracle” has been unraveled by the economic crisis. I am convinced, however, that the tradition and values of Asia that brought forth the “Asian miracle” are very much alive in the people, and thanks to this Asia definitely will be revitalized as we move on to the 21st century. The fact that the economic crisis spread in a chain reaction to most Asian countries only vividly points to the interdependence among Asian countries and, therefore, the need for them to work in unity on the necessary reforms more than ever before. I wish to underscore the need for Asia to unite and cooperate to overcome the economic crisis by revisiting the essence of

Asia that is very much alive in each of us and making the most of it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

What kind of Asia should we build in the 21st century? I believe the 21st century for Asia should be “a century of peace and prosperity built on human dignity”. People should lead a creative life infused with individuality without their survival threatened and dignity violated. The state and the market must contribute to that end. Our experience has taught us, however, that both the state and the market, unless carefully managed, may well hurt human dignity by shoving suffering on the socially vulnerable. Asian society in the 21st century must be one in which all people can truly appreciate peace and prosperity and be convinced that tomorrow will be brighter than today. This should be fully realizable if Asia can cooperate in unity giving proper place to such intrinsic qualities as diligence, high standards of education, outstanding manufacturing capability and high savings ratio. In the policy speech I delivered as foreign minister in Singapore last May I discussed my perspectives for Japan and East Asia in the 21st century. In that speech I emphasized that we need to overcome the current crisis and pass on the coming century to the next generation as “a century of peace and prosperity”. This was a reflection of the thoughts that I have just discussed. Turning to Asia in reality, it has been experiencing numerous difficulties recently. The economic crisis is becoming protracted, threatening the stability of governments and causing riots and increasing crimes in some cases. The crisis is having ever more serious impact on the socially vulnerable – the poor, the elderly and women and children. It now has become a constraint as we try to address the grave challenges for the survival of the humankind in the medium and longer term such as the environmental problem. India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in last May. These tests were a major blow to the international community as they represented a grave challenge to the international efforts to achieve non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. In addition, the launching by North Korea of a missile over Japan in late August – an incident having grave impact on the security in Northeast Asia – threw Japanese and many other Asian peoples into anxiety. Not only that, North Korea is also suspected of having a secret underground nuclear facility – a cause for serious concern for the international community. Ladies and gentlemen, What should we do to realize this “century of peace and prosperity built on human dignity” in Asia? Its foundation must be a secure peace and stability in Asia. ASEAN, through its efforts since its establishment thirty-one years ago, has played an important role for the region’s peace and stability. In more recent years such projects as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) have been launched successfully. The backbone of all these efforts in Asia has been the American presence in the region. In this connection, we believe a strong Japan-U.S. security system is important. We also believe it important to build collaborative relations among major countries. I have been engaged in a series of summit diplomacy from October through December with the visit to Japan by President Kim Dae Jung of the republic of Korea, my visit to the Russian Federation, and the visits to Japan by President Bill Clinton of the United States and President Jiang Ze-min of the People’s Republic of China. In all these meetings I exchanged views seriously and candidly on the ways and means to realize Asian peace and stability in addition to the strengthening of our respective bilateral relations. With the conviction that it is of paramount importance to nurture relations of deeper “trust” by strengthening relationship for “cooperation” through close “dialog” we agreed to build partnership or reaffirmed to strengthen it. In addition, I met with the leaders of 21 countries and area at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November and exchanged views on how best we can cement the foundation for the growth of the Asian region as we endeavor to achieve regional cooperation open to the outside in the spirit of the Asia-Pacific community. Today’s meeting with the heads of state and government of ASEAN wraps up these endeavors throughout this year. This meeting which is part of the meetings ASEAN leaders are having with the leaders of Japan, China and Korea aims at realizing region-wide cooperation in East Asia. Dialog in Northeast Asia needs to be intensified in order to uphold this objective. I should like to take this opportunity to propose that Japan, China and Korea – the three major countries in Northeast Asia – strengthen the network of dialog among them in view of the growing maturity of bilateral ties between Japan and China, Japan and Korea, and China and Korea. In this connection discussions among the three countries on environmental problems and others that are common regional challenges may prove to be the first step towards the formation of a trilateral network of dialog. On the achievement of peace and stability in Northeast Asia I very much hope that the Four Party Talks which are under way will make progress. I also wish to propose as a matter for future consideration the establishment of a forum for six-way talks by adding Japan and Russia as well. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it behooves us to make efforts in three areas if we are to realize our vision for Asia – “a century of peace and prosperity built on human dignity” – upon the foundation of peace and stability and collaborative relations among the major countries.

The first is “to strive to revitalize Asia”. The Asian economic recovery is a prerequisite for the political and social stability in Asian countries. We in Japan have been doing our utmost to be the driving force for the recovery. With ever increasing economic interdependence the recovery of the Japanese economy is important for the Asian economic recovery just as Asian’s economic recovery is important for Japan’s economic recovery. It is true that the Japanese economy today is mired in a harsh situation never seen before but I am no pessimist. The strenuous efforts of the Japanese people have lifted the Japanese economy out of predicament in the past; through the reconstruction from the ashes of war and following the two oil crises or the rapid yen appreciation. It is these experiences that have become the strength of Japan.

The fundamentals of the Japanese economy – ample net external assets, high savings ratio, advanced technological capability – are not at all in poor shape. By forcefully implementing the various measures including the recently adopted emergency economic measures which significantly exceed 20 trillion yen when counting permanent tax cuts as well, I am confident that the Japanese economy will surely recover and once again vigorously lead the Asian economy. At the same time Japan will maintain and further step up its support for the countries of Asia who are doing their utmost to reform their economic structures in order to overcome the economic crisis. To date Japan has announced support measures for Asia that are the largest in the world, and it is implementing them steadily. In response to the current stagnation of the real economy in Asian countries we shall strive to translate the so-called new Miyazawa Initiative that includes US$ 30 billion in financial support into concrete programs and implement them as they become ready. Japan also has decided to set up a special facility amounting to 600 billion yen (US$ 5 billion) to be provided over a three-year period with preferential interest rate as special yen loans to assist the Asian countries in their effort to reform their economic structures and turn around their real economy.

Human resources development is also important for Asian economic recovery. We have decided to start afresh local training of approximately 10,000 people who will comprise the core of industry in the Asian countries. In addition, with a view to responding to the problems of large-scale and sudden capital flows, we shall actively work on the strengthening of the international financial system. We shall also earnestly engage in the internationalization of the yen in order to contribute to the further stabilization of the international monetary system alongside the US dollar and the Euro.

The second area where our efforts are needed is “placing emphasis on human security”. “Human security” is a concept that takes a comprehensive view of all threats to human survival, life and dignity and stresses the need to respond to such threats. The economic crisis confronting the Asian countries today has been a direct blow to their socially vulnerable – the poor, women and children, and the elderly – threatening their survival and dignity. We need urgently to implement measures for the socially vulnerable who are affected by the Asian economic crisis. Japan will continue to address this area utilizing its official development assistance and multilateral frameworks such as APEC. At the same time, even in times of economic crisis, we should not forget cooperation on medium- and long-term problems such as environmental degradation, narcotics and international organized crime which need to be addressed if we wish to protect human survival, life and dignity. Japan has decided this time to contribute 500 million yen (US$ 4.2 million) for the establishment of the “Human Security Fund” under the United Nations so that international organizations concerned can provide support in a flexible and timely manner to projects that are to be implemented in this region.

As these problems that affect human security are close to home for all individuals this is an area in which non-governmental organizations and other actors in civil society can prove most effective. I believe that the governments and international organizations need to support and cooperate with their activity. In order to promote their activity we recently enacted a law that gives legal personality to so-called non-profit organizations (NPOs) . The third area is the “further promotion of intellectual dialog”. If we are to overcome the Asian economic crisis and numerous other challenges and pave the way for a new future for Asia we need to mobilize the wisdom in this region. The intellectual achievements thus accumulated should be reflected in policy. In this Asia where diverse cultures live side by side I believe intellectual dialog has a large role to play. From this vantage point I underscored in my Singapore policy speech the need for mutual intellectual cooperation. This appeal was realized with “An Intellectual Dialog on Building Asia’s Tomorrow” which was held in Tokyo in early December on the theme of “human security”. At the conference leading intellectual figures of Asia got together and discussed the visions and ways for renewed development of Asia with emphasis on human security. I very much hope that the second meeting of this intellectual dialog will be held in an ASEAN member country. I also wish to take this opportunity to express Japan’s support for the further promotion of intellectual exchanges in the medium to longer term.

Believing that leading investment for intellectual assets of the 21st century will be essential we have also decided to build in Tokyo a center for exchanges, coordination and collaboration as well as information transmission among graduate-school-level students and researchers from around the world including Japan. It is hoped that this center will serve to nurture the future intellect of Asia and its exchanges. Ladies and gentlemen, Throughout the 31 years since its founding ASEAN has contributed in a major way to the peace and stability of the Southeast Asian region by enlarging its membership while preserving its political unity. On the economic front it has achieved accelerated economic growth by intensifying intra-regional cooperation and steadily promoting trade and investment liberalization. I should like to express our renewed support for this unity and effort of ASEAN and stress the need to step up cooperation and strengthen relations between Japan and ASEAN.

I am gratified by the steady progress seen in concrete cooperation over the past year since an agreement was drawn up at the Japan-ASEAN summit meeting last year encompassing a broad range of Japan-ASEAN cooperation for the future. One example of such progress is the AEM-MITI Economic and Industrial Cooperation Committee established in accordance with last year’s agreement, which met for the first time in Bangkok in November and adopted an action plan on cooperation for the During the summit meeting with ASEAN that begins this afternoon I would like to make several new proposals on cooperation between Japan and ASEAN building on progress in cooperation seen so far. I am given to understand that ASEAN plans to adopt at its official summit meeting “the Hanoi Plan of Action for ASEAN Vision 2020” as ASEAN’s prospects of and action plan towards the 21st century. In this connection I should like to propose the establishment of a “Vision 2020 Japan-ASEAN Consultative Conference” to discuss and make recommendations for Japan-ASEAN cooperation into the 21st century while fully respecting ASEAN’s own initiative. I hope that this eminent persons’ group which should consist mainly of private intellectuals will come up with strikingly fresh recommendations. May I also report to you that the US$ 20 million contribution I announced in my Singapore policy speech last May in connection with the launching of the “ASEAN Fund” commemorating the 30th anniversary since the founding of ASEAN is now ready to be disbursed as the “Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund”. It is hoped that this fund will be put to effective use for education, human resources development, business exchanges and other activities that will contribute to ASEAN’s development and the strengthening of Japan-ASEAN cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Asia is a region enriched with long history and tradition and diverse cultures. Asia today is, indeed, confronted with many difficulties. I, however, believe that there is no doubt Asia should pursue the realization of universal values such as democracy and a market economy while retaining the intrinsic qualities of Asia it has so much fought for. If we are to overcome the current crisis and realize “the century of peace and prosperity built on human dignity” it is important that we strive together capitalizing on the intrinsic qualities of Asia with hope and confidence for the future. I trust that in that process we shall be able to build the new Asia of tomorrow and contribute broadly to the history of the entire humankind.

Thank you.

(Provisional Translation)