Awaji Conference Statement 2004

The Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan 2004
(August 7th 2004, Hotel Anaga)

The term "security" can be defined as "protecting people's lives and livelihoods from various threats and dangers". Security is a multi-faceted concept, a blanket term. In Japan's case, security threats exist at the state level, such as the North Korean nuclear missiles aimed in our direction, and at other levels, such as the new menace of terrorist attacks on home ground, and the danger to our energy supply and our economy that would ensue if Saudi Arabia were, like Iraq, to fall into chaos. An equally serious threat is posed by major earthquakes, localized torrential rains and other natural disasters. At this 5th Awaji Conference, held in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, we shall be spending two days discussing the security of Japan and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region in the early 21st century. Our conclusions will be translated into declarations corresponding to four different levels. These levels are: 1. Diplomatic security; 2. Economic security; 3. Domestic security in terms of preventing natural disasters; 4. Cultural interchange and the coexistence of diverse value systems.

【Diplomatic Security】After the Second World War and the Cold War, North Korea presents the largest security issue currently outstanding in East Asia. Through a combination of six-nation talks and bilateral negotiations, the nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula that is so essential for regional security must be achieved, and North Korea must, by diplomatic means, be ultimately returned to the fold of regional economic coexistence. Apparently untouched by the global changes that followed the Cold War, North Korea is nevertheless losing its battle to remain totally isolated both economically and in terms of information. This is attested, for example, by the fact that most of the defectors from North Korea had, while still in their homeland, heard radio broadcasts from overseas. Let us hope that these positive developments will escalate, and that North Korea continues to change from the inside without any sudden military outburst. The prosperity of China, that giant whose economic development was set in motion 25 years ago by the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, will no doubt continue to be a major issue in the 21st-century world. History reminds us that the sudden rise of a new world power, as in the case of Germany and Japan in the 20th century, sometimes tips the globe into the maelstrom of war. At home, too, China has its problems, not least of which are the prosperity gap between the coastal regions and the inland provinces, environmental problems and political corruption, and the cross-strait standoff with Taiwan. Despite its own troubles, China is now active on the international stage, leading the six-nation talks, drawing up a free trade agreement with ASEAN, assuming a new and more flexible stance on the South China Sea territorial issue, and generally focusing on a participatory framework and a diplomatic strategy calculated to inspire confidence. Thanks to this new-found proactive dynamism, China has assumed a central role in East Asian politics. However, rather than seeking to revive the old "Chinese order", China needs to continue playing a responsible role within the international system. The growth and development of ASEAN has come to play a large role, not only in maintaining the stability of the South-East Asian region, but also in steering APEC, widening the canopy of security that is the ASEAN Regional Forum or ARF, and providing a meeting-place for the three North-East Asian nations -- China, Japan and South Korea. ASEAN must continue to spearhead the formation of an East Asian collective through which the freedom of the Asian nations can be preserved. Japan, beset by a variety of dangers and ordeals in the years since the Cold War ended, has responded by steadily enlarging its own role on the diplomatic security front. Although this gradual change has been well received, Japan also hopes for the emergence of a strong leader capable of responding to the needs of the new era. Japan needs to assume a powerful role, not only in enhancing its own security, but also in building a world peace firmly rooted in respect for human dignity and cultural diversity. Whatever the outcome of the American presidential elections this fall, we need to undertake the mental preparations, and the widening of the human network, necessary to maintain and foster sound relations between Japan and the United States. Meanwhile, now that East Asia -- pregnant as it is with the seeds of instability -- is becoming increasingly prominent on the world stage, it is absolutely vital that Japan sets out to cultivate healthy working relationships with the countries of this region, and works towards the building of a new regional collective.

【Economic Security】Having survived the financial and economic perils of 1997, the interdependence of East Asia's economies has gone on to become even stronger. China's sustained high growth since 1980 earned it the sobriquet of "the world's factory": it has since been dubbed the "world's largest market". Of course, the Chinese economy has its own worries, such as bad debts (said to be as high as 40%), the risk of bubble-style economic collapse, power shortages, environmental destruction, and the immaturity of the domestic financial infrastructure. Meanwhile, as the interdependencies of East Asia have become increasingly multi-tiered, the result is a major increase in processing trade, whereby China imports capital goods and advanced technologies, and exports products. This trend towards ever-greater interdependence means that the countries of East Asia are, in reality, throwing in their lot together. As China bulldozes its way along the path of rapid and uneven growth, it finds itself beset by energy problems, environmental issues and the like. Japan must make positive efforts to help alleviate these problems, for the sake of its own safety and that of the entire region. It is also important that we take advantage of China's mighty economic vitality, for the good of the economy of the Kansai region of Western Japan, and of the Japanese economy as a whole.

【Disaster Reduction and Domestic Security】From a global perspective, it can be seen that major natural disasters nowadays tend to be concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region. The reasons for this are manifold. They include natural factors such as multiple localized torrential rains, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the Pacific Rim, and the northward shift in the zone where typhoons are generated, caused by the rise in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. They also include social factors, such as advancing urbanization combined with inadequate social infrastructure. What should concern us is the fact that pollution and natural disasters are on the rise, and that environmental conservation and disaster prevention are inseparably linked. No-one can predict when natural disasters are going to happen, but this does not mean that it is useless to prepare for them. On the contrary, we need to reinforce our pre-emptive disaster reduction systems now, by building a strong society that takes care of human beings and conserves the environment on an everyday basis. One of the lessons we learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was that when it comes to spearheading disaster prevention, individual citizens are every bit as important as the authorities. A good illustration of this principle is provided by the local town of Hokudan-cho, where, although many buildings were toppled by the quake, there were no human fatalities: this was due to the existence of a close-knit community, where local residents knew one another well. Conventional wisdom dictates that in disaster prevention, individuals do 10% of the work themselves, while the authorities do 70%. In Hokudan-cho, this formula is reversed. Local residents do 70% of the work, with individuals and neighborhoods asked to pass on disaster-reduction information. This system has since progressed further, and there are now 13 disaster-reduction centers in Hyogo prefecture. Having so many of these facilities under its control, Hyogo is now ideally situated to assume the role of an international disaster-prevention hub. We have amassed a wealth of information in this field, and Japan needs to be bolder in disseminating this wealth.

【Cultural Interchange and the Coexistence of Diverse Value Systems】As a region, our most urgent task is to build a Pacific community, acknowledging cultural diversity, respecting mutual differences in values, and fostering mutual trust. We must promote mutual understanding between different cultures at the individual, group and state levels. We must enrich our own culture by learning about other cultures. We must promote the kind of inter-cultural dialog and interchange that will empower us to solve problems together. In today's world, cultural clashes can have terrible consequences. We must resolutely guard against the dangerous tendency to insist that our own value system is the only correct one, to condemn alien cultures, and to resolve differences through force. As the developing nations struggle onwards, beset by inequalities and hardships, the developed nations are under a particular obligation to encourage them, through an emphasis on cross-cultural dialog and social justice, and through democratization, to find and stick to the path of political moderation. Our journey into the 21st century sees us striking out into uncharted territory, fraught with peril. In years to come, history will judge us harshly if we fail to make the right efforts now. This is the moment to use our intelligence to the full, to pool our strength, and to build a community in the Asia Pacific region.

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