Dual strategy dilutes East Asian unity

08:37, June 24, 2010      

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China's neighboring countries are divided in their minds over how to deal with China eco-nomically and militarily. Politicians often send contradictory messages and media takes up the cause of divergent opinions.

Japan's new prime minister Naoto Kan said during a political debate Tuesday that the military presence of the US in Japan is an important deterrent to China. But Japan's new ambassador to China admitted that Japan's recovery hinges on China.

South Korea, too, while eagerly waiting for the final word of whether US aircraft carrier George Washington would be deployed in the Yellow Sea, declared that the peak period of South Korean investment in China is still on.

The inconsistency is also reflected in the public mood in the two countries. A recent Pew survey suggested that an overwhelming proportion of the public in South Korea and Japan thinks China's growing military influence is a bad thing, but they regard taking a ride on China's fast-growing economic engine to be helpful in coming out of the recession.

The dual play - sharing the benefit of China's economic power while guarding against China by bringing in outside military presence - has been vitiating trust in East Asia and is delaying development of the region.

Such postures have been all too frequent in recent years, with business delegates queuing up for investment opportunities in China while politicians at home wanting to check China's growth.

One explanation may be that neighboring countries have not been able to adapt to China's rise.

But the strong desire to check China with the US military only sows more seeds of distrust.

South Korea and Japan regard the dual strategy as a double guarantee, but they actually turn them-selves into bargaining chips between China and the US. The room that they can gain by maneuvering between China and the US will be small, but the risk of offending either or both is bigger.

East Asia is shifting from the old balance of power structure to a new mechanism based on multilateral cooperation.

There are some fresh ideas afloat to promote common interests, but they have not yet prevailed.

The concept of an East Asian Community proposed by former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had gained some momentum, but it has been pretty much ignored after his exit from office.

Besides suspicions among the countries themselves, outside intervention acts as a further barrier.

Last week, while scholars at Tsinghua University were discussing the feasibility of a currency alliance among the three countries, the National Bureau of Asian Research of the US was debating in Washington on how to maintain US hegemony in East Asia.

The future of East Asia lies in a united community with shared beliefs and a common identity.

China is making every efforts toward building a prosperous East Asia. South Korea and Japan should not drag the process backward with their contradictory moves.

Source: Global Times


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