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Center Of World Power Shifting To Asia

Asia is rising in importance through many countries and even though it may not seem so, the United States is aware of it. According to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, our eyes are fixed elsewhere: "The problem with America is that we are tactically so involved in the Middle East that we tend to overlook to some degree, our long term strategic interest in Asia." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Rebecca Pearsey
UPI Correspondent
Beijing (UPI) Feb 13, 2007
As Yang Liwei climbed into his spaceship in the middle of the Gobi Dessert one early morning in 2003, much of the world prepared to watch out for the tail of China's spaceship flashing through the sky. China was making a statement to the world. And now more than just China's spaceship should be catching our attention.

Asia is rising to the top and there's no doubt about it; By the year 2020, if we shrunk the 7.8 billion predicted world population down to a 100 people representation, 56 would be Asian, 16 African, 13 North America (4 of which are from the U.S.), 7 Eastern Europe, 5 Western Europe, and 3 from the Middle East.

"In every measure the strategic center of gravity is shifting to Asia," said former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in a speech at the International Leadership Conference this week. Armitage pointed out that six of the world's 10 largest militaries, including the United States, are in Asia. Five of the 10 leading GDP's (Gross Domestic Products) are in Asia.

In the area of global alliance, Armitage laid out seven certainties.

-- First, he declared that globalization is inevitable.

-- Second, that the world economy is going to continue to grow.

-- Third, there is enough oil to meet the consumer needs.

-- Fourth, the rise and development of China are inevitable.

-- Fifth, all the west and Japan are aging.

-- Sixth, the trend toward urbanization will continue.

-- And seventh, the U.S. will continue to be the leading country for the next 15 years.

Attending the conference speech Monday night were over 40 distinguished global representatives and policy makers from regions of industry, academia, religion and government. They flew in from Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Mongolia and the U.S., to discuss Peace and Security in the Northeast Asia: Toward Global Alliance.

According to Armitage, the United States needs to start paying attention to Asia's rising countries. In the last four years China has stepped up to the plate in many areas, and will culminate as they host the Olympics in 2008. "From every measure we see that China is preparing to take her place on stage and it's right and just that she do so," said Armitage. "I would argue that the rise and development of China will be as important as the rise of the United Germany in the 19th century and might rival the importance of the United States as power in the 20th century."

The picture of China is growing, yet Armitage noted that it necessitates examination. "When one looks at China from an American point of view there's a very mixed picture. On the one hand we are having a lot of assistance, and on the other hand there are some questions," said Armitage. He conceded that while most of China's friends are for energy reasons, there is something to be said about whom one hangs around with. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Venezuela, to name a few, give the United States reasons to be wary of China. Above all, China will need to maintain stability at home. "We want them to come out successfully," said Armitage, "We don't need a chaotic China, none of us do."

Beyond his commentary on China, Armitage pointed most strongly the United States' need for healthy relations with Japan. "For an American at the present time there is no more important relationship we have than the one with Japan." He spoke highly of the status of Japan, saying that Japan is the second largest nation in the world, the second largest donor to worldwide institutions, and the second only to the United States as a donor of oversees development.

Even though Armitage said that all those reasons are vital, our need for a relationship with Japan is greater than that. "The reason Japan is so important to the United States is because the Japanese government is reflecting the majority of their citizens, which allows us to use basis in Japan, which allows us to affect security cooperation into all of Asia," said Armitage. Japan's placement and policy is key for the world.

And according to Armitage, Russia will play a key role in Asia, because it is rich in not only energy but also in other resources which most of Asia is lacking. "In the long run you have to wonder about a population poor, resource rich country like Russia backing up to a population rich resource poor country like China," said Armitage. "In the long term I take the view that the Russian federation will look to the west and continue developing with a general western outlook."

However, he noted that this transformation into a democracy with alliances will not happen quickly. "It's a long process and I don't think most of us get how long a process it is to come out of 70 years of communism and be expected to turn over night," said Armitage.

Out of all the foreign relations touched in his speech, Armitage approached Korea with the most caution. "Our relationship with the Republic of Korea is one of the most difficult to maintain that you could imagine," said Armitage, prefacing his comments about the U.S.'s difficult history with the Republic of Korea. According to Armitage, our rough relationship with Korea ran all the way back to when Daniel Boone took over their ginseng market.

Then in 1882 the United States signed the Taft-Katsura memorandum, a treaty unknown to most U.S. citizens, but well known to Koreans. " I bet every one of our Korean friends has knowledge of it, because overnight, in the dead of night, without informing our treaty allies (the kingdom of Korea), we recognized the Japanese sovereignty over Korea in return for their renouncing any claims over Hawaii and the Philippines," said Armitage.

Years later, under British terms of surrender to Japan, two American colonels took a tourist map of Korea and drew a line down the middle without any thought to geographic features, such as waterways. Relations with Korea were never well, nor will they be in the near future. "There is a certain amount of distrust, because every time they turn around, we are siding with Japan," said Armitage.

Asia is rising in importance through many countries and even though it may not seem so, the United States is aware of it. According to Armitage, our eyes are fixed elsewhere: "The problem with America is that we are tactically so involved in the Middle East that we tend to overlook to some degree, our long term strategic interest in Asia."

Source: United Press International

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