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Asia's decade reoriented the world: analysts

Japan PM says moving US base to Guam 'unreasonable'
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 27, 2009 - Relocating a contentious US airbase from southern Japan to Guam is "unreasonable" from the standpoint of national security, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told a radio programme. Hatoyama said it would not be practical to shift the whole base, which has been the subject of friction between Tokyo and Washington, from Okinawa to the US-controlled Pacific Ocean territory. "Thinking realistically, it would be unreasonable to relocate all its functions to Guam from the standpoint of deterrence," Hatoyama told a Nippon Radio programme Saturday. The US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station currently sits in a crowded urban area of tropical Okinawa island. Tokyo and Washington agreed in 2006 to move it out to a coastal region, away from the population, many of whom resent its presence.

The agreement was part of a broader realignment of US forces in Japan and includes the redeployment of around 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to the US territory of Guam. Soon after coming to power, Hatoyama's centre-left government announced a review of the agreement, provoking irritation in Washington. However, Hatoyama appeared to soft pedal the review in his weekend comments to the broadcaster. "It's been decided that 8,000 Marines and their families are to be moved to Guam. I expressed my idea that moving more than (8,000) is very difficult from the viewpoint of deterrence," Hatoyama said Sunday before leaving for India, when asked by reporters about his Saturday comments.

Since its defeat in World War II, officially pacifist Japan has relied on a massive US military presence to guarantee its security, initially as an occupier and later as an ally. But the dispute over Futenma has raised fears among some Japanese that this alliance might cool, at a time when a rising China is making its presence felt across Asia. Hatoyama's comments drew the ire of the Socialists in his ruling coalition, who favour shifting the base out of the country and have threatened to leave the coalition over the base row. "The Socialist Party regards the relocation to Guam as the best plan. We will pursue this possibility with our utmost efforts," said Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Socialists.

Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) needs votes from Socialists and another junior coalition partner for a majority in the upper house of parliament. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano is due Monday to chair a meeting with coalition partners on the base issue. Referring to the Monday meeting, Hatoyama said "finding a new location for the Futenma base is important, but naturally, discussing deterrence is inevitable." Hatoyama's government took power in Japan in August after half a century of almost continuous conservative rule, pledging to review past agreements on the US military presence and to deal with Washington on a more "equal" basis. The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, now has 47,000 troops stationed there, more than half of them on Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Dec 27, 2009
Explosive growth in economic and political power ensured that the past 10 years set the foundations for what many analysts predict will be the Asian Century as the world tilts firmly eastwards.

Many dangers lie ahead, but observers say the world's two most populous countries -- China and India -- appear on course to define the decades to come after the American Century and the British Century before that.

"Yes, absolutely, I think this decade demonstrates the real promise of Asia," said Alan Dupont, director of the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.

"The last two years in particular have seen a sea shift in real power and I think that's been highlighted by the travails the Americans and the Europeans have had after the global economic and financial crisis.

"It has really focused everybody on the fact that China has now arrived and India is not that far behind, and power really has shifted to the East and away from Europe and North America."

China had been "a rock of stability", Dupont told AFP. Time magazine chose "The Chinese Worker" as a runner-up for its annual Person of the Year award in 2009.

Robert Broadfoot, managing director of the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, agreed that the past decade belonged to Asia.

"There is a shift of the assets and, with that, political power towards China in particular and Asia in general," he said.

But if the tilt from West to East was sustained in the decades ahead, it would be more appropriate to call it the Chinese Century, not the Asian Century, Broadfoot said.

The statistics speak for themselves -- blistering economic growth rates of more than 8.0 percent in China -- while Western countries slumped into recession. The United States now counts China as its biggest creditor nation.

But the economic figures -- India also achieved growth rates of more than 7.0 percent -- are only part of Asia's rise.

The political power that goes hand-in-hand with economic power means that no global agreements can be viable without the approval of China and India, as this month's climate talks in Copenhagen showed.

And beyond that lies "soft power" -- the sort of cultural influence wielded last century by the United States in particular, from Hollywood through pop culture to fast food.

As an example, Dupont pointed to China's Confucius Institutes set up around the world to compete with other organisations that project national cultural influence, such as the British Council or France's Alliance Francaise.

Chinese-born actors such as Gong Li, Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi now have Hollywood star power. Writers Ha Jin and Yu Hua are acclaimed internationally.

The Chinese government has reportedly set up a 6.5-billion-dollar fund to expand the global footprint of state-controlled media companies like Xinhua, China Central Television and China Radio International.

Hosting the Olympics last year was an emphatic declaration of China's global arrival and some of its sportsmen -- such as basketballer Yao Ming and former world-record hurdler Liu Xiang -- have celebrity status.

Chinese scientists are becoming more prominent, with the nation's space programme leading the way. China was the world's third nation to put a man in space and has ambitions to send a man to the moon.

India has also enjoyed success in space with the announcement in September that its first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, had found evidence of large quantities of water on the moon's surface.

The path to Asian dominance is strewn with obstacles, however, with weaknesses in democratic and social institutions and widening wealth gaps seen as potentially dangerous roadblocks.

Minxin Pei of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says Asian leaders lack the "visionary ideas" that were a hallmark of US dominance, and that China-style autocracies are inherently unstable.

"Although Asia today may have the world's most dynamic economies, it does not seem to play an equally inspiring role as a thought leader," he wrote in Foreign Policy magazine.

Dupont at the University of Sydney also questioned whether Asia's racing start to the century will be sustainable over the next 50 to 100 years, given the environmental havoc caused by rapid development.

But if Hollywood is a guide, Asia is set to triumph.

In early 20th century movies, the Chinese were represented by mustachioed evil genius Fu Manchu. In this year's big-budget disaster flick "2012", China helps to save mankind from apocalypse.

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Japan PM heads for India
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 27, 2009
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama left for India on Sunday for talks with his counterpart Manmohan Singh aimed at strengthening security and economic cooperation. Hatoyama will also meet Rajendra Pachauri, head of a Nobel-winning UN panel of climate scientists, to discuss how to generate momentum on tackling global warming after the Copenhagen climate accord failed to reach binding targ ... read more

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