Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Missed opportunity to seek solutions to common challenges

By Cai Hong (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-23 08:02

Missed opportunity to seek solutions to common challenges

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida gestures during a press conference at the International Media Center in Hiroshima, Japan on April 11, 2016 after Foreign Ministers meeting of G7 countries visit the Peace Memorial Museum. [Photo/IC]

On Friday, Japan's Foreign Ministry released the agenda of the G7 summit meeting, which the island country will host this week.

Social and economic issues aside, Japan has decided to put "maritime security" on the agenda, saying it will highlight the "importance of rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes".

Japan will also hold two outreach sessions-one for Asia and the other for Africa-on the sidelines of the G7 meeting. As it is the first summit to be held in Asia in eight years, Japan has taken it as an opportunity to talk about the region's path towards prosperity. So it has invited the leaders of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to discuss "quality infrastructure investment" and "open and stable seas".

When two Japanese officials gave a briefing on the summit on Friday, a Tokyo-based German journalist said Asia's prosperity is not possible without China and the Republic of Korea, two major players in East Asia.

"You haven't invited China and South Korea to the summit. Does that make sense?" he asked.

The two officials were obviously surprised by this question because they could hardly find words to answer.

It is fair to say that even though Japan, the only Asian nation in the G7 group, wants to put regional issues on the summit's agenda, the exclusion of China and the Republic of Korea makes such discussions essentially meaningless.

With many tough, complicated issues challenging the region, this is a missed opportunity to foster a sense of cooperation in the face of common challenges.

The World Bank has trimmed its 2016 and 2017 economic growth forecasts for East Asia. While developing nations in East Asia-from Indonesia to China-have benefited from careful economic policies, global risks are considerable and threaten the region's outlook. Among these are a slowdown in high-income countries, the slump in exports and financial market volatility.

At the same time, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is brittle and could break at any moment, provoking a crisis of global dimensions.

China, Japan and the ROK are members of the Six-Party Talks, a framework to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue through dialogue. China's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei has visited the ROK and Japan for discussions on the resumption of the Six-Party Talks aimed at denuclearizing the peninsula.

It is urgent for regional governments to coordinate more and forge a greater sense of cooperation to overcome the difficulties and fulfill the high hopes and aspirations of people living in the region. Better cooperation would strengthen the economic foundations, extend prosperity to the furthest reaches of the region and allow it to play an important role in the world commensurate with its size and economic importance.

Plainly, Japan's government has not convinced itself of the importance of cooperation with the country's neighbors.

Cooperation with China would reduce Japan's vulnerabilities rather than exacerbate them, said Sheila Smith, senior fellow with the US Council on Foreign Relations, in her book Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China.

The author is China Daily Tokyo bureau chief.

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