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Badawi raps US-Japan view of China as threat
Updated: 2005-06-02 07:49

China is not a threat to the world, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wednesday, while criticizing a joint statement by the United States and Japan earlier this year that paints China as one.

In a speech at an international security forum organized by the Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Abdullah noted that China had, until recently, "never been openly declared a military threat or potential threat."

"Some countries may have quietly harbored that view -- however tenuous the grounds -- but none overtly described China as a potential threat," he said.

"This has now changed. For the first time, the United States and Japan have issued a joint statement declaring Taiwan a matter of mutual security concern," he said, referring to the statement issued by the two countries after a meeting in February of their foreign and defense ministers in Washington.

The Feb. 20 joint statement called for a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue as part of the two countries' "common strategic objectives" in the Asia-Pacific region.

It called for "the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue" and urged China "to improve transparency of its military affairs."

The statement has been another point of contention in the already soured ties between Japan and China, for the latter views the inclusion of Taiwan in the parameters of the U.S.-Japan security alliance as a reneging on the "one-China" policy, giving the impression Japan would join the United States in defending Taiwan in case of an attack on the island.

"In my view, the strengthening of security and defense alliances in the Asia Pacific region is both unnecessary and destabilizing," Abdullah said. "It serves to provoke more than it reassures."

He said such action "may be understandable if there is a rising military power or coalition of military powers that will soon threaten the military supremacy of the existing hegemonic order."

"But this is not the case either, whether in the Asia Pacific or anywhere else in the world."

China, Abdullah said, has no hegemonic ambitions.

But the issue of Taiwan "remains the single most likely flashpoint for military confrontation," he said.

Abdullah, who visited Tokyo last week, expressed concerns over the deteriorating relationship between two of Asia's most powerful nations.

He suggested three approaches to the three obstacles he believes need to be overcome, namely history, politics and geography.

"Each side could make a special effort to understand and accommodate the concerns and grievances of the other party...A visit withheld, as well as a damage compensated will go a considerable way towards cooling emotions and mending relations," he said.

He was apparently alluding partly to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are honored along with Japan's war dead.

Both parties should lay the past to rest as has been achieved in Europe, Abdullah said. "This would be easier if, on the one hand, narrow nationalist interpretations of history are not condoned, and on the other, there are no extreme and repeated demands for contrition," he said.

The Malaysian leader also suggested the use of "quiet diplomacy," with both sides refraining from using the media to air their disputes.

On Sino-Japanese territorial disputes, he said that if bilateral approaches fail, both sides should consider international arbitration.

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