EU thinks Japan and China key to Peace in Asia
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
On the 27 February 2002, Ambassador Ove Juul Jørgensen (Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan) gave a speech to the 15th EU-Japan Journalist Conference in which he spelled out how Europe views Asia. The significance of this speech lay in Ambassador Jørgensen's definition of what the EU considered as the most important questions determining the future of Asia. It is critical that we bring these factors out into the open in order to better understand the EU's approach to Japan and its surroundings.
As a contextual background it is important to point out that the theme of the conference was "Geopolitics in Asia after 11 September". Nevertheless, the core of Ambassador Jørgensen's speech dealt with matters that existed and attracted much attention even before 9/11. These included the insecurity on the Korean Peninsula, instability in Indonesia, the conflict in Kashmir and its link to a potential large-scale war between India and Pakistan, as well as human security issues such as poverty, crime and disease. As an overriding concern, however, the Ambassador highlighted Asia as a region of primary importance for the EU stating that, "what happens in Asia in the coming decade will be decisive for peace and stability in general and for the global interests of the EU".
The concern is that Asia has entered a period of drastic transition and according to his speech, the focus is on Japan and China. "When looking at Asia" stated Jørgensen, "one is always pulled back at the two dominant countries of the region", Japan and China.
In terms of Japan, the EU is concerned about its ability to maintain its status as an economic superpower. If it fails to do so the fear is that the stability of Asia, to a large part promoted by Japan's moderate political attitude will disappear. In his speech Jørgensen outlined several key questions that were running through the minds of many in the EU. Will Japan succeed in transforming and modernizing its economic and social structure? Will it continue to be an economic powerhouse for Asia? Will it finally come to terms with its past and seek full reconciliation with its neighbors? The existential worry is that Japan will not succeed in regaining its privileged status and could be forced into a difficult situation vis-a-vis China, with whom tensions remain high as a result of Japan's inability to convince the PRC and others of its sincere regret for the war crimes it committed prior to and during WWII.
Regarding China the main questions outlined by the Ambassador were whether China would evolve into the dominant economic and political super power in the region. Asked if China's entry into the WTO would lead to its full integration in the international community? And wondered if economic reform would be followed by political reform?
To both, Jørgensen asked whether Japan and China would be able to use their "economic complemenatarity to build a solid partnership and emerge as the guarantors of peace and stability in the region?"
Judging from the Ambassadors speech, the issue for the EU seems to be whether or not Asia, and in particular Japan and China will be able to live through their transformation in a peaceful manner. Asia is thought to be in a process of reconstruction and the worry is that it could disintegrate. There are a sufficient amount of tensions and threats existing in the region to provoke a violent transition. What Asia needs, claimed Jørgensen, was a "homegrown" recipe for integration. From Europe's perspective Japan and China need to take a leading role in ensuring that geo-political changes in Asia are made in a peaceful and smooth manner. This is why he and the institution he represents think that Asia holds the key to peace and stability in our world today.
All in all, the speech is a revealing expose of Europe's concerns towards and evaluations of Asia in general and Japan and China in particular.