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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:59, December 07, 2005
East Asia Summit: in the shadow of sharp divisions
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The two-day First East Asia Summit will open on December 14 in Malaysia. Leaders from 16 countries are expected to exchange views on international and regional issues in political, economic and social fields and release a Kuala Lumpur Declaration. However, participating countries are still quite divided over some questions.

Political divisions
This summit finally fixed at a 10+6 pattern, that is, attendees include ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus China, Japan, the ROK, India, Australia and New Zealand. Currently they are quite split over the content of the expected Kuala Lumpur Declaration and drafting work came to a halt.

According to insiders, some countries including Thailand sided with China over the claim that "this entity must take ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, the ROK) as its core" and demanded no mentioning of community in the draft. While some others led by Japan hope to write into the draft "to build a future East Asia Community" and names of the 16 countries.

By doing so, ASEAN diplomats believe, Japan is trying to drag countries outside this region such as Australia and India into the community to serve as a counterbalance to China.

To grab the upper hand at the meeting, analysts say, Japan would most probably dish out the "human rights" issue and draw in the United States, New Zealand and Australia to build up US, Japan-centered western dominance. At the same time, it will particularly highlight the differences in political and economic systems between developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the ROK and developing ones including China and Vietnam, in an attempt to crumble away cooperative forces and weaken Chinese influence in East Asia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang pointed out last week that China has no intention to play a dominant role in East Asia since every country is an equal member of this region; peace, development and stability in this region are in the interests of all members and China hopes to achieve common development and win-win results through regional cooperation.

Economic divisions
Differences in this regard mainly fall on the process of economic integration. Some countries led by India expect to push forward the process. India hopes to build a free trade area extending from Bombay to New Zealand's Christchurch, and finally expand the area, which covers 3 billion people, into the world largest of its kind. But India's proposal is not warmly responded as each country has its own considerations.

Since participating countries have failed to reach agreement in many aspects before the meeting, some foreign analysts don't expect much from this summit, saying it can only probably produce intangible results if there are any. A Malaysian researcher on strategic studies even believes that the East Asia Summit will finally collapse, because actually it is only an empty shell unable to yield any substantial results; while an Indian official said they only regard the summit as a piece of brick in building the free trade zone.

United States, Russia shunned out
Russia and the United States are also very interested in this summit, but are shunned out, sources say. This is because of ASEAN's three requirements on participating countries: having substantial relations with ASEAN, being a partner of ASEAN dialogues and a signatory to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. To obtain an "admission ticket" to the summit, Australia followed India and New Zealand to say it would join the treaty as soon as possible. As a result, the First East Asia Summit finalized at a 10+6 pattern.

ASEAN turned the United States down, giving a technical reason that it is not a member of the treaty. Russia, although a signatory to the treaty, also failed to get entrance. It is learned that before the summit opens ASEAN will hold a separate 10+1 talk with Russia, whose entry into the summit is perhaps only a question of time.

By People's Daily Online

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