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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:34 03/09/2007
Commentary (February 1, 2006)

The Year That Was in Asia Pacific

Jacob Kovalio (Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa)

This is a summary of the paper. The full text can be accessed here.

Japan's annus horribilis

The biggest political story of the year in Asia Pacific was the Sino-Korean anti-Japanese propaganda offensive, a textbook case of history being used as political tool. 2005 was the year Japan's drive to become a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations reached its peak. However, the present administrations in Beijing and Seoul decided to thwart Japan's candidacy (ab)using history as pretext and instrument. If recent trends continue, 2005 may become the starting point of a (temporary) de-facto Sino-Korean (Seoul/Pyongyang) front whose immediate goals are: revamping the strategic architecture in northeast Asia by marginalizing Japan as a major regional (and global) power; ending the US-ROK alliance; eliminating American involvement in the western Pacific, and replacing it with a Pax Sinica-Koreana. After President Roh Moo-hyun is gone, however, and assuming that China's prominence will continue to grow, it is natural for a "Japan- [unified] Korea-Russia-US rapprochement" to emerge as a viable, interim, stage, before regionalism matures.

The East Asia Summit and the NNN

The year ended with the first ever, sixteen-strong East Asia Summit (EAS) held in Kuala Lumpur in mid-December. The ongoing spat between Japan and China was evident there, too. Tokyo won some points when India, Australia and New Zealand were invited, and the agenda was not decided prior to the start of the summit, counter to Beijing's positions on both issues. ASEAN, the experienced forty-year old regional body for the time being will function as the centre of the evolving EAS, to be convened annually after the ASEAN leaders' gathering.2005 also saw the establishment of the Non-aligned News Network (NNN) a news agency launched in Kuala Lumpur in November by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). NNN is designed to give a positive spin to the image of the totalitarian regimes lording over most NAM nations. At the conference, representatives of Malaysia, Iran, Cuba, Syria, etc., attacked what they see as biased Western reporting. Morteza Granghad, the head of Iran's state television insisted that since the "western media wages (sic) war against developing countries, through NNN we can ... respond to this threat". Ernesto Lopez Dominguez, president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television sounded most knowledgeable: "Disinformation is silent and continuous terrorism ... It qualifies as mental genocide, as it deprives audiences from ideas and arguments on key issues for their own existence." Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah complained that Western media reporting about his country was so unbalanced that "we will not be surprised if Syria is blamed for causing the tsunami in Asia, the earthquake in Pakistan and even the bird flu." On January 6, 2006, Tan Sri Dr. Nureddin Sopiee the CEO and Chairman of Malaysia's International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) succumbed to thyroid cancer and he is only 61. His analytical swan song, published in the Pacific Forum was an informative, balanced and highly relevant essay titled " The Clash of Civilizations vs. the War on Terror: Some Hard Facts." He will be missed.

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