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Peace in Asia 'key to its economic success'

Publication Date : 06-02-2014


While national and security interest have raised tensions in East Asia in recent months, the United States is hoping that economic interests can keep tempers in check.

The State Department's point man for the region, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, Wednesday sought to lay out the economic imperatives for a peaceful Asia.

Speaking to reporters in the US capital in his first press conference since last month's visit to Asia, he said the region's unprecedented economic growth was possible only because of the relatively stable geopolitical environment.

With Asia now a key economic power, he said, global markets needed the three Northeast Asian economic engines to work together.

"The global economy is so important and, frankly, so fragile that we can't afford to have the world's second and third largest economies at odds. We can't afford to have Japan and China, let alone Japan, China and Korea, working at cross-purposes."

And while reiterating US concerns about China's new air defence identification zone (ADIZ), Russel also made the point that the onus of maintaining peace in Asia does not lie solely on Beijing's shoulders.

He said: "There are multiple perspectives, but one thing is certain - none of these problems, none of these tensions can be solved by any one party alone. There is a role for every country in contributing to a virtuous (circle) of improved relations."

However, he noticeably did not repeat previous State Department remarks condemning Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's inflammatory visit to the Yasukuni shrine.
Russel also indicated that the US would not interfere with Abe's stated plan of revising its pacifist Constitution.

"On the issue of specific decisions by the Japanese government and in the Japanese system about their self-defence, we accept that those are decisions that can and must be made by the representatives of the Japanese public," he said.

Tensions between the Northeast Asian powers have dominated foreign policy conversations in Washington since last December, after China caused a diplomatic uproar by declaring an ADIZ last November that covered islands over which it has overlapping claims with Japan.

It was no different at Russel's 40-minute press conference meant to outline US foreign policy priorities this year.

He repeated the US call for the ADIZ not to be implemented, voiced concern over China's fishing laws restricting foreign fishermen's movements in the South China Sea, and acknowledged that Chinese actions have unnerved many countries in the region.

"The region and the world want to see that China's intentions, as it grows, are to participate in and contribute to the international system as a country that respects international norms, respects the rights of others, and accepts that rules, not coercion, must, at the end of the day, guide behaviour," he said.

He also stressed that territorial claims must be made based on international law: "China should define its claims in a manner that is consistent with conventional international law, including and particularly the UN Law of the Sea. And fundamentally, this means claims derived from recognised land features.

"No one can justifiably, in compliance with international law, simply assert the right to exercise control over great swathes of a sea."

While he did not directly address the matter of whether President Barack Obama would attend the year-end Asian summits that were skipped last year, he said the administration was "looking forward" to the meetings.

" I feel confident that there are multiple opportunities for President Obama to travel to Asia," he said.


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