FW: Daily Report - March 15

2000-03-17 00:02
In today's Report:
I. United States
1. US Defense Secretary's Asia Trip
2. Cross-Straits Relations
3. Spratly Islands
II. Republic of Korea
1. DPRK-Japan Talks
2. DPRK-US Talks
3. DRPK Refugees
4. ROK-DPRK Relations
III. People's Republic of China
1. PRC-DPRK Relations
2. PRC View of DPRK-Japanese Talks
3. ROK Helicopter Purchase
4. The Taiwan Issue
5. PRC View of Missile Sale to Taiwan
6. PRC-US Disputes on the Tibet Issue
7. PRC-US Economic Relations
8. PLA Modernization
IV. Australia
1. Australia-PRC Relations
2. Straits of Taiwan
3. Australia-Japan Relations
4. Australia-Indonesia Relations
5. Australia-Thailand Relations
6. Australia-Malaysia Relations
7. Australian Policy toward Asia
8. Government Views of Australia-Asia Relations
9. Asian Regionalism
10. Adrift in Asia: Summing Up

I. United States

1. US Defense Secretary's Asia Trip

3/15/00) reported that US Defense Secretary William Cohen flew into Japan
on Wednesday from Vietnam on a three-day visit to discuss the DPRK, the
PRC and a disagreement over the cost of keeping US troops in Japan.
Cohen is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, Foreign Minister
Yohei Kono and his Japanese counterpart Tsutomu Kawara in Tokyo on March
16. A Japanese foreign ministry official said, "the purpose of his visit
is to discuss US-Japan security issues, as well as to exchange views on
regional security surrounding Japan. The issue of host-nation support is
very important for the United States and Japan and it is very likely that
the topic will be brought up during their talks." Cohen will fly to the
ROK on March 17.

2. Cross-Straits Relations

TAIWAN POLLS," Beijing, 3/15/00) reported that PRC Premier Zhu Rongji
told US President Bill Clinton on Wednesday to stop making threats
against the PRC. Zhu said at a press conference marking the end of the
annual session of the National People's Congress that, "there must be a
shift from threat to dialogue across the Pacific Ocean. No matter who
comes into power in Taiwan in the election, we won't allow the
independence of Taiwan to happen ... this is the bottom line." Analysts
noted Zhu's restrained demeanor, but said he did not jeopardize his high
standing on the international stage as a man the West can do business
with. David Zweig, China watcher at the Hong Kong University of Science
and Technology, said that although Zhu's statements on Taiwan were
relatively moderate and covered both "hard line and soft line" positions
on reunification, it was too early to tell if his statements would affect
the outcome of Taiwan's presidential vote on March 16. Jean-Pierre
Cabestan, director of the Hong Kong-based French Center for Research on
Contemporary China, said that Zhu's statements were well balanced and his
refusal to directly name the US was an attempt at toning down angry
rhetoric already coming out of the PRC. Cabestan said, "Zhu wanted to
bend the position of the Taiwan voters, while conserving good relations
with the US. China needs the US for the WTO and does not want to
antagonize the Americans."

3. Spratly Islands

Associated Press (Busaba Sivasomboon, "CHINA, ASEAN AGREE ON SPRATLYS,"
Cha-am, Thailand, 3/15/00) reported that a Thai official said Wednesday
that the PRC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have
agreed to frame a common "code of conduct" for disputed territorial
claims in the South China Sea. Senior officials of ASEAN and the PRC met
in Thailand and agreed that the code would be designed to build trust and
would not be legally binding. Seehasak Phaungketkeow, deputy director
general of Thailand's East Asia department, said, "the problems between
countries should be solved by bilateral agreement. The code of conduct
aims to create a friendly atmosphere." Seehasak said Wednesday's that
the talks were a successful start to negotiations. He added that the
proposed code would cover four broad areas: how to handle disputes in the
South China Sea, how to build trust and confidence, cooperation on marine
issues and environmental protection, and modes of consultation.

The International Herald Tribune (Michael Richardson, "COHEN URGES HANOI
Defense Secretary William Cohen urged Vietnam and its Southeast Asian
neighbors on March 14 to use their collective "leverage" to reach a
peaceful settlement with the PRC over control of the South China Sea.
Cohen stated, "one of the very important and beneficial aspects of ASEAN
is that you have collective interests, and those collective interests can
in fact, if you act in concert, give considerable leverage in dealing
with China in the future on a peaceful and cooperative basis." [Ed.
note: This article was included in the US Department of Defense's Early
Bird news service for March 15, 2000.]

II. Republic of Korea

1. DPRK-Japan Talks

03/14/00) reported that the DPRK promised on March 13 to start
investigations into "missing" Japanese while Japan formally announced the
resumption of food aid to the DPRK. Japanese Red Cross officials told
their DPRK counterparts that "tangible progress" would help in future
talks on normalizing relations, said a Japanese official after the
completion of one day of talks. One anonymous official said, "the North
Korean side explained if missing people should be discovered they will
notify Japan without delay." He said that DPRK officials promised that
the DPRK would carry out in-depth, nationwide searches for the missing
Japanese while thanking Japan for its offer of 100,000 tons of rice aid.
The official said that Japanese officials promised that Japan would try
to locate the whereabouts of 100 Koreans who went missing in Japan before
1945. The two sides also agreed that future Red Cross talks between
Japan and the DPRK would work to help 16 Japanese women who went to live
in the DPRK earlier visit family members in Japan in May. Tokyo-based
experts on March 13 were not hopeful about the diplomatic prospects of
the Red Cross talks, stating that Japan is unlikely to find out what has
happened to the citizens it believes were kidnapped, and had only a slim
chance of establishing diplomatic ties any time soon.

2. DPRK-US Talks

03/14/00) reported that US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at a
joint news conference with ROK Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn in Seoul,
announced the opening of US-DPRK discussions on terrorism. Albright said
that Michael Sheehan, director of the US office to counter terrorism, had
taken up the subject in talks with the DPRK in New York. Albright said
that the talks recessed for the two delegations to consult with their
governments. Lee said that the ROK had not been a target of DPRK
terrorism for years. A UN spokesman said on March 13 that UN Secretary-
General Kofi Annan welcomed "the increasingly positive signs" on the
divided Korean peninsula and strongly endorsed the quick resumption of a
dialogue between the DPRK and the ROK. The spokesman said that Annan was
ready "to contribute to the efforts aimed at reducing tensions and
promoting mutual confidence in the region" upon request and looks forward
to a DPRK visit to Washington.

3. DRPK Refugees

UNLIKELY TO BE LOCATED IN CHINA," Seoul, 03/14/00) reported that ROK
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lee Joung-bin held a meeting on
March 13 for ROK correspondents in Washington to talk about recent calls
for the establishment of a refugee camp in a third country to protect
DPRK defectors. Lee said, "the North Korean refugee problem is a highly
complex diplomatic issue, and a refugee camp alone would not ensure the
safety of North Korean escapees." He also said that the ROK government
views such a move as unrealistic because if such a camp were set up, it
could not be located in the PRC nor Russia. Lee continued, "both China
and Russia insist that determining which North Korean defectors should be
granted refugee status is a complex and ambiguous matter. As such, the
two countries are unlikely to agree to setting up a refugee camp for
North Korean defectors, as proposed by some commentators in Korea and

4. ROK-DPRK Relations

Seoul, 03/14/00) reported that during a speech on March 14 at the 56th
commencement of the Korea Military Academy in Seoul, ROK President Kim
Dae-jung renewed his pledge to accept any DPRK proposal conducive to
opening bilateral dialogue at the governmental or any other levels. Kim
also proposed free travel between the ROK and the DPRK and appealed to
the DPRK to "open their minds and come to the ROK-DPRK conference table
to usher in a new chapter of history during which 70 million Koreans will
cooperate with each other and freely travel between the South and North."
Kim said that such a DPRK policy will be carried out against a firm
backdrop of anti-communism and a full alert to crush any possible armed
provocation from the DPRK. He also stressed his strong belief that any
type of dialogue between the ROK and the DPRK will help the two Koreas
cooperate with each other and reconcile. Kim stated that the foremost
goal of his inter-Korea policy is securing peace and dismantling the Cold
War legacy on the Korean peninsula. He continued, "this will translate
into the 70 million Koreans on both sides being able to live free of the
danger of another war. When peace prevails, the North will be able to
build its economy, feed its people and maintain stability in their
everyday lives."

III. People's Republic of China

1. PRC-DPRK Relations

Beijing, 3/11/00, P6) reported that PRC Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan
said on March 10 that DPRK leader Kim Jong-il's visit to the PRC Embassy
in Pyongyang was a desire he had expressed a long time ago. Tang also
said that DPRK Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun's forthcoming visit to
Beijing was a return visit from when Tang visited the DPRK not so long
ago. Tang said, "this is normal exchanges between two foreign
ministers." Tang refused to comment when asked whether the PRC would
help arrange a summit between the DPRK and the ROK.

2. PRC View of DPRK-Japanese Talks

China Daily (Hu Qihua, "NATION RESENTS US RESOLUTION," 3/15/00, P1)
reported that PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said at a news
briefing on March 14 that the PRC welcomes the progress made by Japan and
the DPRK. After negotiations between the Red Cross Societies of Japan
and the DPRK, the two countries issued a joint statement in Beijing on
March 13, with agreements on home-visits of Japanese spouses living in
DPRK, and investigations into missing Japanese and Koreans missing before

3. ROK Helicopter Purchase

China Daily ("S. KOREA SEEKS HELICOPTER BIDS," Seoul, 3/15/00, P6)
reported that the ROK on March 14 invited seven foreign defense firms
from the US, Russia, South Africa and Europe to take part in a US$1.8
billion project to build new combat helicopters by 2004. An ROK defense
ministry statement said, "the project features introducing large attack
helicopters, to be the core part of the army's air combat capability,
from abroad." The US firms Boeing Company, Sikorsky Aircraft
Corporation, and Bell Helicopter-Textron, the Russian firms Kamov and
Mill Moscow Helicopter Plant, the South African firm Denel, and the
French-German consortium Eurocopter were those invited.

4. The Taiwan Issue

People's Daily carried a commentary ("STEPPING UP PREPARATORY WORK FOR
EARLY SOLUTION OF TAIWAN ISSUE," 3/13/00, P3) which said that an early
solution to the Taiwan issue, coupled with the realization of the
complete reunification of the motherland, "is the tide, the trend and the
great justice, reason and benefit of the country and nation." The
article continued, "our principle for solving the Taiwan issue is
'peaceful reunification, one country, two systems'. Based on a political
and strategic consideration, we have stated that there should be a
timetable for resolving the Taiwan question, which cannot be postponed
indefinitely. We should earnestly intensify our efforts of doing work
with Taiwan people and do a good job in winning their hearts, this is of
important significance for the final solution of the Taiwan issue."

5. PRC View of Missile Sale to Taiwan

China Daily (Shao Zongwei, "MISSILE SALE DRAWS FIRE," 3/10/00, P1)
reported that the PRC urged the US on March 9 to immediately halt all
arms sales to Taiwan. PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said at
a news briefing that the arms sale seriously infringes on the PRC's
sovereignty and interferes in the PRC's internal affairs. He added that
the sales would also stir "elements favoring independence for Taiwan,"
and create a major source of tension across the Taiwan Straits. Zhu
demanded that the US abide by the three Sino-American joint communiques
and the commitments it made.

6. PRC-US Disputes on the Tibet Issue

People's Daily ("NATION RESENTS US RESOLUTION," Beijing, 3/15/00, P4)
reported that PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi expressed strong
resentment and firm opposition on March 14 against the US Senate's March
9 resolution designating March 10, 2000 as "National Day of Tibet." Sun
said that the resolution disregards the facts and basic norms of
international relations and demanded that the US Senate honor the US
commitment that Tibet is an inseparable part of the PRC. Sun continued
to demand that the US immediately stop interfering in the PRC's internal
affairs by meddling in the Tibet issue.

7. PRC-US Economic Relations

China Daily (Zhao Huanxin, "OFFICIAL URGES US TRADE VOTE," 3/14/00, P1)
reported that the PRC was close to concluding bilateral negotiations with
World Trade Organization (WTO) members and is calling for unconditional
permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status from the US. PRC foreign
trade minister Shi Guangsheng said on March 13 that the PNTR is an issue
affecting the implementation of Sino-US bilateral arrangements. Shi said
that an unconditional resolution of the PNTR issue for the PRC is the
basis for implementation of a Sino-US bilateral pact signed last
November. He continued, "if the US misses this opportunity, it will lose
the tremendous market of China and will be giving it away to its

8. PLA Modernization

People's Liberation Army Daily (Luo Yuwen and Lu Tianyi, "JIANG URGES PLA
MODERNIZATION," Beijing, 3/10/00, P1) reported that PRC President Jiang
Zemin urged the PRC's armed forces to push their modernization to a new
stage and enhance their combat readiness and defense capability to a new
level under conditions of modern technology, especially high technology.
Jiang made the call when attending a meeting of all People's Liberation
Army (PLA) deputies to the Ninth National People's Congress. Jiang said,
"by the end of last year, the target to demobilize 500,000 PLA soldiers
set at the 15th National Congress of the CPC had been realized." He also
said that the army shoulders a great historic responsibility, namely, to
protect state sovereignty, unity, security, and people's peaceful labor,
and to provide a strong guarantee for reform, opening up policy
implementation and socialist modernization. Jiang added that the army
should fulfill its fundamental obligation to safeguard state sovereignty
and security, and meanwhile take an active part in the country's economic

IV. Australia

[Ed. note: In the week beginning 3/6/00, the Australian began a 7 day
series of articles on Australia's relationships with Asia under the title
AUSTRALIA AND ASIA-AT PEACE OR ADRIFT? Below are summaries of some of
the major arguments presented in this series.]

1. Australia-PRC Relations

BILL IN CHINA," 3/9/00, P.7) reports that the PRC Government views
Australia as a bridge between East and West. Visits by Chinese leaders
to Australia since John Howard took over as Prime Minister are an overt
demonstration that closer ties between the two nations are seen by both
sides as a platform for greater Australian regional engagement. Beijing
does not perceive any quantum policy shifts by Canberra away from
constructive engagement with the region. Indeed, the Chinese appear
relieved that the Howard Government has adopted a less trail-blazing
approach than its predecessors to interaction with its neighbours. China
appears to accept that Australia is a close and consistent ally of the
US. In broad terms, Australia is seen as a bastion of democratic ideals,
free market principles and Western values. Historical links to Europe
still mark Australia as an essentially white nation, but one where there
is a growing influx of Asian migrants, helping foster greater
understanding of neighbours' concerns. As such, Australia is seen as an
emerging bridge between East and West. As one Chinese commentator put
it, "militarily and politically Australia follows the United States.
Economically, Australia has close ties to Japan and wants to extend its
economic influence in Asia. Culturally, Australia wants to keep her
links to Europe. Australia has to learn how to balance these three

2. Straits of Taiwan

The Australian (Lynne O'Donnell, "CHINA TO CANBERRA: HANDS OFF TAIWAN,"
3/10/00, P.6) reports that the PRC has issued a strong warning to
Australia that relations will be severely damaged if Canberra supports a
US intervention in a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. Australia would breach
its commitment to the one-China policy if it supported a military
operation over Taiwan. China put Australia on notice that Beijing would
expect Canberra to remain at least neutral should a conflict break out on
the issue.

The Australian (Greg Sheridan, "WHAT IF BLUFF AND BLUSTER TURNED TO
BIFF," 3/10/00, P.17) reports that last year Australia was worried that
if the US found itself in conflict with the PRC over Taiwan it would
expect Australia's support. If it didn't get that support, that would
mean the end of the US-Australia alliance. This led directly to a huge
strategic reassessment, and now Canberra has what it thinks is a full and
coordinated strategy. "Of course the reality is that in any conflict
Australia would side with Washington. But the object of Australian
policy is to prevent such a choice ever having to be made and to handle,
with what might be termed 'strategic ambiguity, a series of contingencies
short of conflict." Where Beijing may be seriously miscalculating in its
current approach is the effect its bullying might have in the US.
Congressional opinion against ratifying the PRC's entry into the World
Trade Organisation is hardening; congressional support for increased
weapons sales to Taiwan is also hardening; European opinion against the
PRC is also growing. Each US presidential candidate has felt obliged to
make significant comments critical of the PRC. "Those contingency plans
of Canberra better be pretty good."

3. Australia-Japan Relations

ALIENS," 3/7/00, P.82) reports that Japan remains a strong and loyal ally
of Australia, with the economic and political links creating what for
both countries is one of their most positive and valuable relationships.
But beneath the surface in Japan, many of the officials and academics who
follow Australian affairs are baffled at what they see as the Howard
Government's tilt away from Asia and towards the US and Europe. The
direct cause of disquiet was Japanese irritation at what they saw as
polite but unrelenting pressure for Japan to make a bigger contribution
to the trust fund that would help pay for the East Timor deployment. The
other concern is what has been widely taken to be a new "Howard doctrine"
- the notion arising from an interview with John Howard which suggested
that Australia would act as "deputy sheriff" to the US in the region. In
spite of Mr. Howard's denials that he ever used that phrase, and his
insistence that Australia was nobody's deputy, the idea has stuck. There
is a sense in which both Australia and Japan have never really been
accepted by Asia as apart of the region, and many in Japan argue that we
should use our shared sense of alienation and uncertainty as impetus to
achieve proactive regional cooperation.

4. Australia-Indonesia Relations

The Australian (Don Greenlees "LEADER'S NAME MUD IN JAKARTA," 3/6/00,
P.14) reports that the frequently whispered truth of Australia's partners
relationship with Indonesia is that it is made worse by one man: John
Howard. "Indonesia's political elites, rightly or wrongly, have arrived
at the conclusion the Prime Minister is disinterested in Asia and would
rather play to a domestic gallery than maintain close relations with our
northern neighbour." Indonesians from all walks of life were deeply
wounded by the East Timor experience. There are complex and conflicting
emotions at play: hurt national pride; a loss of confidence in the verity
of a unified archipelago; a sense of being betrayed by their military and
that Indonesia might be in the wrong; and the opposing desire to defend
the country from foreign (especially western) interference. Australia's
leadership role in East Timor was necessary, but it awakened sentiments
in Indonesia that will take a very long time to calm. Some people will
never forget.

5. Australia-Thailand Relations

ALLY," 3/6/00, P.14) argues that the Thailand relationship has been the
Howard Government's big diplomatic success story in South-East Asia. The
bold stroke was Canberra's swift decision to contribute US$1 billion to
Thailand's IMF rescue package in 1997, in striking contrast to the
inaction of the US. This was reinforced by Howard's visit to Thailand in
1998, when he impressed his hosts with a ringing endorsement of the
bilateral relationship. How much the situation has changed - and to
Australia's advantage - is demonstrated by the fact that it fell to
Thailand's Foreign Minister, Surin Pitsuwan, to produce a satisfactory
ASEAN response to the East Timor crisis. Had it not been for Dr. Wurin's
efforts, Australia ASEAN and Indonesia would all have been embarrassed,
albeit for vastly different reasons, by token and grudging Southeast
Asian participation.

6. Australia-Malaysia Relations

The Australian (Peter Alford, "LEARNING TO LIVE WITH MAHATHIR," 3/7/00,
P.8) reports that dealing with a famously prickly Prime Minister is the
central problem in our relationship with Malaysia. Some aspects of
Australian government foreign policy have pleased Malaysia, especially
the fact that Australia is no longer scrambling to participate in every
regional initiative. No one was more irked than the Malaysians by
Labor's aggressive Asian diplomacy. But the relationship remains
fraught. In Australia, diplomacy towards Malaysia has changed to one of
grim determination to sit out the 74-year-old and to actively contest his
regional interventions that prejudice Australian interests. At the same
time business and educational links remain strong. However, Mahathirism
has been very successful in promoting Malaysia's interests abroad and
energising the core Malay community at home, and this has not escaped the
next generation of leaders. The resurgence of Islamic hardliners has
become a core reality of Malaysian politics and is unlikely to encourage
UMNO to go further down a "secular western" path, which many Malay Muslim
critics say Dr. Mahathir has already traveled too far.

7. Australian Policy toward Asia

The Australian (Paul Kelly "HOWARD MISSES OPPORTUNITIES," 3/6/00, P1)
argues that Australia's relations with Asia are undergoing a distinct
change - the combination of a new regional outlook and John Howard's
conviction that the "frantic" period of Asian obsession is over. "The
most important long-term consequence for Australia is the growth of a new
sense of East-Asian regionalism - which does not include Australia,
Canada or the US. This regionalism remains an embryonic instinct within
Asia, driven by deep forces, notably the recent financial crisis. But it
has the long term potential to marginalise Australia. It coincides with
a revival of the old-fashioned Asian stereotype of Australia as a western
enclave, US-allied, British-derived. "The most important foreign policy
shift under Howard is the far greater weight given to Australian public
opinion. It permits only one interpretation - that Australia has no need
to adapt to Asia, which, if true, is an historical end to our long
process of adaptation. It would be wrong, however, to think that
Australia's regional relations are in a dire condition. The truth is
that they reflect the complex pluralism within Asia, but it is hard to
avoid the conclusion that Australia's regional links are in a state of
drift. "Australia's economic success was the platform on which to create
a more dynamic and contemporary Asian perception of Australia. Yet this
opportunity has not been realised. The Howard Government has too often
sent a contradictory message that revived the memory of an old-fashioned
Australia. The next stage in the process might take Australia by
surprise - a subtle by growing Asian cultural assertiveness in tandem
with economic recovery."

The Australian (Greg Sheridan "A FADING BLIP ON REGION RADAR," 3/7/00,
P.8) argues that five or six years ago, Australia was an intimate part of
every significant dynamic in the region. Today, regional countries see
Australia as important for the size of the economy and the prowess of its
military, but also as sailing away from the region, disengaged, making
less and less intellectual and political contribution to regional issues,
being less and less a centre of ideas or influence. Our soldiers have
done well in East Timor, and the region respects that, but SE Asian
leaders have been dumbfounded by the clumsy and often offensive
mishandling of every aspect of the politics and rhetoric surrounding
Australia's E. Timor venture. The single worst episode, although by no
means uncharacteristic, was the thankfully shortlived "deputy sheriff"
Howard doctrine. The most interesting organisational, cultural and
political dynamics at work in the region now are East Asia-only dynamics.
Asia-Pacific regionalism, the vision of Hawke and Keating and Evans,
including the US and Australia, and a natural for us, is in at least
partial eclipse, while the idea that we might join any of the East Asia-
only stuff is on no one's radar screen. The pattern of the Prime
Minister's overseas trips, so heavily weighted in favour of England and
the US, also sends a powerful message to the region.

8. Government Views of Australia-Asia Relations

The Australian (Dennis Shanahan "ALL WARM AND FUZZY OVER ASIA," 3/6/00,
P.14) interviewed Prime Mniister John Howard on his view of the current
state of Australia-Asia relations. Howard argued that Australians are
now "utterly at peace" with our relationship with Asia because we are no
longer "frantic" about the region, and that an "artificiality" in our
attitude towards Asia has gone. He believes Australia's difficulties
with China over being seen as a tool of the US have been overcome and
that we are getting a modest dividend as a result. Mr. Howard says we
"see ourselves as partners, as participants, as friends, but also see
ourselves as having an existence in a series of relationships which
extend beyond Asia. We're just Australians in this part of the world
having a Western background, and having a lot of affinity with many of
the countries of Asia."

The Australian (Alexander Downer, "WE CAN STAND PROUD IN OUR REGION,"
3/9/00, P.11) contained a response by Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer,
to some of the criticism made of Australian foreign policy. Downer
argued that Australia's relations with the Asia-Pacific region have moved
on to a more stable and relevant footing as the Government has positioned
Australia to be a practical contributor to our region. "Those who cling
to a myopic view that Australia must genuflect to gain acceptance in our
own region are out of touch with Australian and regional sentiment."
There have been a number of achievements over the last few years. We
made a significant contribution to the management of the regional
economic crisis. We have built closer links with Thailand and the
Philippines. "With China, we have moved our relationship on to a more
sustainable basis with the establishment of a structured human rights
dialogue. We have established political-military talks, and Australia
has become a preferred destination for thousands of Chinese tourists.
Most importantly, we have also hosted the first visit to Australia by the
Chinese head of state. We have established a political-military dialogue
with South Korea and hosted a visit by President Kim Dae-Jung. The
Government has ensured that Australia's relationship with Japan has been
strengthened. "Despite the occasional self-important critique from some
of your correspondents wishing that Australia would abandon everything
that we as a nation hold dear - our values, our outlook, our sense of
what is right and proper - the Government will continue to work to make
Australia a more relevant contributor to the region around us."

9. Asian Regionalism

The Australian (Paul Kelly, "THE MEGA-TIGER IS NOW OUR MAIN GAME,"
3/8/00, P.13) suggests that stirrings of a new Asian regionalism demand a
renewed engagement with our neighbours. There has been concern in
Canberra at a speech by the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Rodolfo Severino,
suggesting that it would soon be time to dispense with the annual
leader's meeting of APEC nations. If Severino had his way, it would be
hard to imagine a greater blow to Australian diplomacy and vision. This
speech confirms that a body of opinion exists in ASEAN that wants to
dismantle APEC as a political force. Severino's aim is to have APEC as a
low-key economic group working more in harmony with ASEAN's interest.
The critique of APEC is based on three elements: an enduring ASEAN
jealousy; the absurd expansion of APEC which has weakened its coherence;
and the momentum for a new "Asians only" East Asian regional body.
Severino's speech should not be exaggerated. It symbolises a new, deeply
confused mood within Asia. But it is a mood where Australia is
distinctly less important and the Howard Government is now clearly seen
as less committed to Asian engagement than its predecessors. This is a
pivotal perception. The political force driving East Asia today is the
legacy from the Asian financial crisis. This crisis has generated a
revived East Asian regionalism that is hardly grasped in Australia. The
logic is clear: the capital markets attacked Asia as a region so Asian
nations must bind together to fireproof their region. Plans for Asia's
economic integration and political collaboration are growing. For
Australia, there are three points to make. First, the new Asian
regionalism has nothing to do with the success or failure of the Howard
Government. Second, Australia cannot by definition join any "Asian only"
political group and it would be folly to try. Third, there is now
convincing anecdotal evidence that Asian elites see Australia as
distinctly less engaged with the region than before. Australia urgently
needs a new and constructive debate about our Asian links. This is the
real issue and it can only be confronted by an acceptance that E. Timor
was never the main game.

10. Adrift in Asia: Summing Up

The Australian (Greg Sheridan, "HOWARD SLIPS OUT OF THE BIG PICTURE,"
3/10/00, P.6) summed up its week-long series on Asia. It reasserted its
view that there has been an undoubted slackening of regional engagement.
The intimate cooperation with Tokyo and Seoul over APEC and other aspects
of regional architecture is in decline. In Northeast Asia, the idea that
we are effectively a subset of the US, and more or less incapable of
independent strategic judgement, was deeply reinforced by the Howard
doctrine "deputy sheriff" fiasco. There is also a consequence in
Northeast Asia of our loss of influence in Southeast Asia. We have
destroyed our strategic relationship with Indonesia. And we have a
ministry that doesn't travel much in Asia. Add that together and our
claim in Washington to have vastly superior insight and political
understanding of Southeast Asia to that which the Americans have is
simply unsustainable. As a result, our influence in Washington is less
than it was. A loss of influence in Washington translates for us as a
loss of influence in Northeast Asia as well. Similarly, the Howard
Government presented the Timor operation as a fundamental break with past
policies of Asian engagement. This was a decisive but foolish option,
which turned Timor into a symbol of rejection of Asia rather than a
symbol of commitment to Asia. Northeast Asians understandably feel that
if we cannot manage our Southeast Asian relations, we are of little added
value in regional terms. We are not now seen as a significant shaper of
regional ideas, institutions or trends, or indeed as an insider in the
region at all. "Our loss of intellectual leadership in APEC is important
in this content, for it was in APEC in particular that we delivered
important, widely differing but useful results for Korea, Japan and
China, and also longed the habit of big picture for regional


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