The Australian: PM Rudd spearheading “Asia-Pacific Union” like the EU, Japan “interested”

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Kevin Rudd to drive Asian union

Matthew Franklin, Chief political correspondent | The Australian June 05, 2008

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23812768-601,00.html

Courtesy Tony Desapien

KEVIN Rudd wants to spearhead the creation of an Asia-Pacific Union similar to the European Union by 2020 and has appointed veteran diplomat Richard Woolcott – one of his mentors – as a special envoy to lobby regional leaders over the body.

The Prime Minister said last night that the union, adding India to the 21-member APEC grouping, would encompass a regional free-trade agreement and provide a crucial venue for co-operation on issues such as terrorism and long-term energy and resource security.

And he outlined his plans for his visits to Japan and Indonesia next week, saying he would explore greater defence co-operation between Australia, Japan and the US – an approach that had been championed by John Howard.

Speaking in Sydney last night to the Asia Society Australasia Centre, the Mandarin-speaking Mr Rudd said global power and influence was shifting towards the Asia-Pacific region and that Australia must drive the creation of a new global architecture for the Asia-Pacific century.

“We need to have a vision for an Asia-Pacific community, a vision that embraces a regional institution, which spans the entire Asia-Pacific region – including the United States, Japan, China, India, Indonesia and the other states of the region,” said the Prime Minister.

The body would be “able to engage in the full spectrum of dialogue, co-operation and action in economic and political matters and future challenges related to security”.

“The purpose is to encourage the development of a genuine and comprehensive sense of community whose habitual operating principle is co-operation,” Mr Rudd said.

“The danger of not acting is that we run the risk of succumbing to the perception that future conflict within our region may somehow be inevitable.”

Government sources said last night that Mr Rudd was attempting to revive the reformist spirit of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, who successfully pressed for the creation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group 20 years ago.

Mr Woolcott, 80, was Mr Hawke’s right-hand man in establishing APEC and was a frequent critic of the Howard government’s foreign policy.

Mr Woolcott told The Australian last night that Mr Rudd had made it clear there was great scope to co-ordinate existing regional organisations.

“This fits neatly into the concept of greater middle-power diplomacy,” Mr Woolcott said.

“If the US or China or Japan or some other big power were to suggest it, other nations might be apprehensive and back away. It’s better for a middle power like Australia to take the initiative.

“I’ve always thought that this was the part of the world where Australia lives, and if an Asia-Pacific community does develop, it’s essential that Australia be part of it.”

The proposed new pan-Asian body would come in addition to a range of existing forums through the region, including ASEAN, ASEAN Plus Three and the East Asian Summit.

But Mr Rudd said now was the appropriate time to re-examine the regional diplomatic and economic architecture because foreign policy based only on bilateral agreements had “a brittleness”.

“To remove some of that brittleness, we need strong and effective regional structures,” Mr Rudd said.

“Strong institutions will underpin an open, peaceful, stable, prosperous and sustainable region.”

Mr Rudd said the existing forums were not configured to promote co-operation across the entire region.

And he said his proposal was consistent with US President George W.Bush’s call for the development of an Asia-Pacific free trade area.

While the EU should not provide “an identikit model”, the Asia-Pacific region could learn much from the union, which in the 1950s had been seen by sceptics as unrealistic.

“Our special challenge is that we face a region with greater diversity in political systems and economic structures, levels of development, religious beliefs, languages and cultures, than did our counterparts in Europe,” Mr Rudd said. “But that should not stop us from thinking big.”

Mr Rudd said he would send Mr Woolcott to complete the “unfinished business” he had begun with Mr Hawke. “Subject to that further dialogue, we would envisage the possibility of a further high-level conference of government and non-government representatives to advance this proposal,” he said.

“I fully recognise this will not be an easy process … but the speed and the scope of changes in our region means we need to act now. Ours must be an open region – we need to link into the world, not shut ourselves off from it.

“And Australia has to be at the forefront of the challenge, helping to provide the ideas and drive to build new regional architecture.”

Mr Rudd said his Government’s foreign policy was based on three pillars: its relationship with the US; its links with the UN; and “comprehensive engagement with Asia”.

Discussing his visits to Japan and Indonesia next week, Mr Rudd said he would continue talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda toward the creation of a free-trade agreement as well as advancing talks on security co-operation between Australia, Japan and the US. In Indonesia, he would pursue talks about a free-trade agreement and anti-terrorism co-operation with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as seeking a template for greater co-operation on dealing with natural disasters.

ENDS

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Former PMs douse Rudd’s Asian union

Australlian AAP June 06, 2008 01:29am

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23819466-29277,00.html

FORMER prime ministers Paul Keating and Bob Hawke have cast doubt on the Rudd government’s push to form a European Union-style body in the Asia-Pacific, saying it would be inappropriate for the region.

On Wednesday night Prime Minister Kevin Rudd put forward an ambitious vision for an Asia-Pacific community, possibly modelled on the European Union, to be adopted by 2020. He wants any new regional creation to span the entire Asia Pacific, including the United States, Japan, China, India and Indonesia.    

While Mr Hawke and Mr Keating supported Mr Rudd’s focus on the region, both said an EU-styled system would be unachievable in Asia, News Ltd has reported.

“God knows, it has taken the Chinese 350 years of the modern age to truly recover their sovereignty – I do not see them sharing much of it with anyone else,” Mr Keating said. 

“And Japan remains one of the most insular, monocultural countries in the world, whose political leadership, at least for the last Japanese prime minister, was still reminiscing about China’s war experiences…” 

Mr Hawke said much could be done to better integrate the Asia Pacific region, without the need for an overarching body. 

“I don’t want to knock references to the EU but don’t let us say that’s the way it must be for Asia,” he said. 

“We can do a hell of a lot without necessarily having the full degree of integration that has occurred with the European Union.” 

ENDS

11 comments on “The Australian: PM Rudd spearheading “Asia-Pacific Union” like the EU, Japan “interested”

  • “The U.S., China and shared sovereignty? Dream on.”

    My thoughts exactly. Nice idea, though.

  • God knows where Rudd pulled this one from. He totally scrapped the US/Aus/Japan/Korea security
    arrangement that was being set up last year. I guess he was trying to be sensitive to the Chinese.But to come back and suggest ‘we can all get along ‘ with his big smile shows he must be misunderstanding the depth of animosity between Japan-China Japan- Korea China- Korea and so on.

    But at least hes thinking of the FUTURE. More importantly hes throwing out ideas.

    Keating was right about Japanese politics. Its dominated by a bunch of guys who think that political bravery is going to Yasukuni and making stupid statements denying comfort women. Their minds are totally fixated on the past. The distance of the political elites from the thinking of their constituents is mind-boggling.

    At LEAST Rudd is thinking of the future and stirring up debate. He represents an intelligent and dynamic new generation of politicians. I dont agree with many things he has said but I respect him as a leader who fosters ideas. His official government apology to the Aboriginal people in Australia was the most moving and heroic move Ive seen in Australian politics. Its was great!

    I guess the LDP party machine is not conducive to churning out young policians who want to encourage discussion. I think they are tickled pink by the peoples apathy and indifference here.
    I only wish someone could burst my pessimistic bubble with some good news

    –I think Keating put it well.

  • –I think Keating put it well.

    Yes he certainly has a way with words! Actually he is at his best when insulting his political enemies. But thats going off topic. Heres a more inspiring Keating quote that I really like and applies well to this situation.

    “No choice we can make as a nation lies between our history and our geography. We can hardly change either of them. They are immutable. The only choice we can make as a nation is the choice about our future. ”
    “A Prospect of Europe”, 1997 speech at the University of New South Wales

  • “Keating was right about Japanese politics. Its dominated by a bunch of guys who think that political bravery is going to Yasukuni and making stupid statements denying comfort women. Their minds are totally fixated on the past. The distance of the political elites from the thinking of their constituents is mind-boggling.”

    I can’t find any sources for this statement. – I agree completely with the sentiment, but since this site is quick to request sources for statements made in counter “arguments”, I feel it should go both ways, particularly as the statement has been attributed (if indirectly) to a person.

    –I agree. Sorry. Can we track down a source?

  • Yes I agree,

    Keating was a great man….

    ….for issuing impressive sounding platitudes.

    I hardly think that placing Japanese ‘politicians’ into one distinct little package and then summarizing Japanese public opinion as being in another little package somewhere else is really an apt description of the complexity of Japanese politics, or even the LDP.

    And Abe’s idea of an Australia/India/South Korea/Japan defense ‘pact’ was a pretty silly one, that even Howard damned with faint praise.

    The problem with Rudd’s proposal though is that the EU did not suddenly just ‘decide’ to be the EU. It has evolved from economic cooperation of a few core states since the 1950s, and initially involved only resource sharing. Japan and China will need to bury the hatchet before any progress can be made on this front. I think the Japanese have, on the whole, been willing to do that for years and I am encouraged by the very recent rapproachement that has been going on. I don’t think either post-Maastrict or post-Rome style cooperation is in the cards though.

  • Sorry for the confusion. When I said that Keating was right about Japanese politics I was referring to his statement from the news article. That statement quoted in the Australian (newspaper) and is as follows

    “And Japan remains one of the most insular, monocultural countries in the world, whose political leadership, at least for the last Japanese prime minister, was still reminiscing about China’s war experiences…”

    What I wrote in the following sentence ‘Its dominanted by a … ..’ and so on was my own 2 cents worth, commentary, rant etc. I was building on what I thought Keating meant. I in no way meant to imply that Keating had said those words.
    His statement to the Australian though was still rather strong and too the point.

    Sorry for confusion.
    I type these things fast..

  • “And Japan remains one of the most insular, monocultural countries in the world, whose political leadership, at least for the last Japanese prime minister, was still reminiscing about China’s war experiences…”

    That’s still pretty light on substance. How could Abe “reminisce” about China’s war experience? He wasn’t even living then. What Abe did was issue a book that painted a rosy (as well as boring and vague) picture of the LDP’s early goals and his relationship with his grandfather. Not that I like to defend him, but the only major statement he made as PM about the war was the one about the comfort women that was quoted wildly out of context. Of course, his shenanigans at NHK were unfortunate and stupid, but I think he was held to account for that, among other things, in last year’s UH election. and the incident added to the growing dissatisfaction with the state broadcaster – 1m+ Japanese refused to pay their subscription fees during Abe’s term.

    So you have a vaguely hawkish and wildly unpopular leader in for less than a year and suddenly Japan is “reminiscing” about its wartime “experiences”.

    As for Japan’s insularity, it is pretty apparent to me that Japan has been the nation par excellence of absorbing Western culture and ideas in Asia. And a nation can’t really be a “trading state” – like Japan – by being “insular”. In fact, of any East Asian nation, Japan has been the most committed to regional and international institutions such as ASEAN and APEC. In fact, if there was any nation that would approve of Rudd’s strategy in principle, it would likely be Japan, especially under Fukuda (or course, even he is not so pro-integration as to not acknowledge the practical problems).

    Keating seems to get his knowledge about Japanese politics and society from the Guardian or the NY Times.

  • “That’s still pretty light on substance. How could Abe “reminisce” about China’s war experience? He wasn’t even living then.”

    Ok point taken but I think your being a little nitpicky with the words.
    I havent read Abe’s book utsukushii kuni but I heard that he spent time discussing the domestic legality of the Tokyo Tribunal in Japan, hardly the most relevant issue for 21st century Japan. When he went to India he visited the descendants of the only dissenting judge at the Tokyo trials. Quite a strange detour dont you think?
    Taken with his statements about comfort women, his past visits to yasukuni and his devotion to his war criminal grandfather. I think its fair to say there was a certain amount of reminisceing going on there

    “So you have a vaguely hawkish and wildly unpopular leader in for less than a year and suddenly Japan is “reminiscing” about its wartime “experiences””

    Mate, its not just him, I presume you have heard of the “One page advertisment” signed by a large number of LDP and DLP diet-members denying the existance of comfort women. It was signed by 44 diet-members. They obviously thought that sending this stupid advertisment was more important than worrying about Japans massive looming pension and welfare crisis.

    Meanwhile pensionors over 70, who need medicine the most of anyone, are getting shit on by these LDP losers. People who ACTUALLY lived through WWII. Great way to pay respect to that generation. Cant you see the contradiction. If they care so much for that part of history at least look after those from that generation who are still struggling to survive.

    “As for Japan’s insularity, it is pretty apparent to me that Japan has been the nation par excellence of absorbing Western culture and ideas in Asia”

    Yes again I see your point, especially if you go to Shibuya etc. but Keating was referring to the political ESTABLISHMENT.

    “Keating seems to get his knowledge about Japanese politics and society from the Guardian or the NY Times.”
    As a former Prime Minister of Australia I think he had a more direct involvement then the pages of left-wing papers. His foreign affairs focus was improving relations with Asia and the China-Japan rivalry was one of the things he had to deal with like anyone who is dealing with this region.

  • “Mate, its not just him, I presume you have heard of the “One page advertisment” signed by a large number of LDP and DLP diet-members denying the existance of comfort women. It was signed by 44 diet-members. They obviously thought that sending this stupid advertisment was more important than worrying about Japans massive looming pension and welfare crisis.”

    Shaune:

    There are over 700 members in the diet and you chose the actions of 44 of them to describe the political climate of Japan? Come on now. How about flip side of this incident which is that U.S. legislators thought that passing this non biding resolution was more important than U.S’s (fill in the “blank” problems).

    “Yes again I see your point, especially if you go to Shibuya etc. but Keating was referring to the political ESTABLISHMENT. ”

    Sorry. I find the diplomatic exchanges between Japan and other neighboring Asian nations much more active than any other within the neighbors.

    http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/index.html

    http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/index2.html

  • “but Keating was referring to the political ESTABLISHMENT”

    Yes, and I repeat, Japan’s political ESTABLISHMENT since the end of the war has favored trade with Asia and since the 1970s has been pushing Asian integration. Hardly what you would expect from an “insular” government.

    “I heard that he spent time discussing the domestic legality of the Tokyo Tribunal…”

    Yes, perfectly correct. A nice reading of Wikipedia, Shaun. I actually remembered this section because it was one of the only parts of the book that made sense when I read it. He was essentially arguing with those who said that the enshrinement of former war criminals at Yasukuni was against the terms of the San Fransisco Peace Treaty. He says that (pp.69-74) those war criminals that are not considered criminals under Japanese domestic law, that the foreign countries that tried the criminals signed off on their release as is consistent with Article 11 of the treaty and that Yasukuni has nothing to do with the treaty anyway. All perfectly correct, and an answer to those critics who can’t let the war go, not an indication of the former PM’s proclivity towards reminiscence.

    “…statements about comfort women…”

    Yes, Abe was stupid for talking about comfort women. But it is far from clear that his comments were a denial. Here’s what he said: “当初定義されていた強制性を裏付ける証拠がなかったのは事実だ… 定義が大きく変わったことを前提に考えなければならない.” Make of it what you will, but the IHT article that ran his statement certainly had a few interesting mistranslations in it. But, of course, one might expect that kind of thing from Norimitsu Onishi. Damned Canadians.

    “I presume you have heard of the “One page advertisment” signed by a large number of LDP and DLP diet-members denying the existance of comfort women.”

    Heard of it and read it:
    http://www.occidentalism.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/thefact.jpg

    It was, of course, a childish reaction to a rather stupid resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives. Still, apart from Nishimura Shingo (who the ESTABLISHMENT made to resign from cabinet over comments considered to be too hawkish) and Hiranuma Takeo (who the ESTABLISHMENT did not endorse in the 2005 LH election), I only see minor political players, plus the usual assortment of failed right-wing commentators and journalists. The only figure I would credit with any credibility is Okazaki Hisahiko, but everyone knows where he stands. In any case, the advertisement, while shot with the usual arguments, 1) did not “deny the existence of comfort women” and 2) actually admitted that forced prostitution did take place in some places.

    In any case, you make the mistake that Keating does in associating the actions of the few with those of the majority that did not sign. I take it you are Australian, so what if I were to tell you that the Australian government did not apologize to the aborigines because Johnny Howard didn’t show and the opposition was not completely prostrate. Ridiculous, right? But that is exactly the standard that is being applied here.

    The ESTABLISHMENT view in Japan on the comfort women, consistent since 1993, is that Japan apologizes for its actions.
    http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/cw1.htm

    As for Yasukuni, well, no PM went officially between Nakasone and Koizumi, and none have gone since, so what does that tell you? As to whether Koizumi was representing his constituents by doing so, at one point public opinion showed that most thought it should be his own private decision. Personally, I tend to agree.

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