OPINION> Columnist
A new channel opened up for integration of East Asia
By Li Hongmei (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2008-12-15 14:53

The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea held a rare trilateral summit last Saturday in Fukuoka, Japan, as they tried to work out how best to cushion Asia from the global economic meltdown. This was the first ever three-way summit convened separately from larger international meetings.

The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese PM Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak signed at the one-day joint meeting the statement to promote tripartite cooperation, delivering a positive message that the three countries can lead in finding out a way to achieve coexistence and common prosperity in the Pacific Rim.

Admittedly the joint efforts made to summon the meeting are of great significance when the world economy and global financial market are facing a severe winter. Even a few years ago, such a summit between Japan and its neighbors would have been unthinkable. However, Japan’s recent moves to mend the neighborly ties, which have been long haunted by the Asian memories of Tokyo’s past aggression and its leaders paying tribute to Yasukuni Shrine, have made the weekend’s forum a possibility.

A decade ago, the three economic giants in Asia, accounting for three-quarters of Asia’s GDP, worked together in beating the financial crisis sweeping Southeast Asia, and their cross-nation efforts not only helped the victims struggle out of trouble, but enhanced their own economic strength and ability of resistance on risks. In addition, the global status and economic influence of the three countries have since been considerably elevated in the world arena.

Today’s tripartite cooperation comes under the impending pressure to jointly shoulder the risks brought about by the world financial storm and the practical requirement for a joint commitment to building up a more effective dialogue mechanism in a bid to survive the globe-sized economic crisis. That is why the three unanimously agreed upon the proposal that a new type of partnership be built on the basis of all-round and multi-field cooperation. Even if China had previously established an all-round cooperative partnership with South Korea, and a friendly and cooperative partnership gearing for peace and development with Japan, the newly launched partnership involving all the three countries still raised the world attention.

The most valuable gain in the event of a deepening financial crisis was the China-South Korea and Japan-South Korea currency swap deals reached ahead of the trilateral summit, as they are expected to help stabilize the unrest in foreign currency market. At this economically agonizing juncture, all the three leaders have their hands full with problems in their own countries. Only through high-profile dialogues and by boosting their strategic or to-be strategic cooperation, can a new channel be opened up to provide financial lifelines to their crisis-hit economy.