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East Asia Community Taking Shape

The dream of a cohesive East Asia Community is distant but progress towards regional integration will continue at a steady pace, a senior Chinese diplomat said yesterday in Beijing.


Wu Jianmin, president of China Foreign Affairs University said despite growing initiatives by the 10+3 countries China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to create stronger links between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, the establishment of the East Asia Community "still has a long way to go," adding there is no unified roadmap or timetable for charting the course.


He said the overriding goal for each member country is the development of the national economy, so economic cooperation is a focus in the current stage of the process; but cooperation will expand to other aspects including regional security and culture.


Wu's comments followed yesterday's third East Asia Forum, which attracted over 100 officials, scholars and business people from the 10+3 countries.


State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, who delivered the key-note address at the opening ceremony, called on member nations to consider 10+3 as a key to common prosperity and development.


Tang said China upholds ASEAN's leading role in East Asian cooperation; however, it also welcomes the participation from countries outside the region.


"We have to promote East Asia cooperation in an open way," Tang said. "We have to launch various kinds of dialogue and communication with countries outside the region to gain their support."


Wu, speaking in a similar vein, said the establishment of the East Asia Community needs the understanding from world economic powers such as the US.


Tang noted that East Asia cooperation is still at a preliminary stage and coping with non-traditional security issues such as bird flu, energy and terrorism requires all the countries to seek more efficient solutions.


Wu said the East Asia Community is an unprecedented undertaking and many ideas including the establishment of unified tariffs and a common Asian currency were topics of the discussion at the one-day forum.


The 10+3 Summit Meeting last year identified the establishment of East Asia Community as a long-term goal for 10+3 cooperation.


The first-ever East Asia Summit will be held in Malaysia next month.


The establishment of an East Asia Community faces numerous significant challenges, including the relationship between China and Japan.


While Japan has been supportive of regional integration, its prime minister's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine trigger tension with other Asian countries including China and South Korea.


The resolution of Sino-Japanese tensions is deemed necessary for the sustainability of the community.


"The difficult situation will not last forever," Wu said, "it will be resolved at sometime eventually."


(China Daily November 1, 2005)

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