[ International Conference on Revitalizing Northeast China and Promoting Regional Cooperation in Northeast Asia in Dalian ]
A Grand Design for Northeast Asia
Mr. SHIOYA Takafusa
President of National Institute for
Research AdvancementiNIRAj, JAPAN
Northeast China is the center of Northeast Asia. Therefore, in moving ahead with the revitalization of Northeast China, which the Chinese government has adopted as an important policy direction, it is necessary to ascertain the direction of development of Northeast Asia as a whole and promote a regional revitalization consistent with that direction.
The Northeast Asian region contains development frontiers of a type which now exist in few parts of the globe, in addition to pristine natural environments untouched by the hand of man for millennia. In this region, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan lie side-by-side separated by the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the East China Sea. That these seas were seas of fertility, enablers of vigorous exchange in ancient and medieval times, is well known. Economic interdependence among Japan, China and South Korea has continued to deepen recently, and they are becoming increasingly indispensable partners to each other. I believe that increasing economic interdependence will lower the barriers erected by national borders, increase international movement, and cultivate a sense of belonging to Northeast Asia among the peoples of the region. I also believe that in the not-too-distant future, a regional cooperation system which can be termed a Northeast Asian Community will be established. As a roadmap for the establishment of such a system, we at NIRA have commenced the formulation of a "Grand Design for Northeast Asia" in collaboration with Chinese and South Korean research institutes. Today I would like to offer an overview of this roadmap, in the hope that it will stimulate future discussions.
We felt that it was necessary to prepare a Grand Design for Northeast Asia for a number of reasons.
First, a comprehensive development vision which emphasizes the organic connection of the entire region is essential to the sustainable development of Northeast Asia.
Second, the following scenario can be drawn to illustrate a path to the establishment of a Northeast Asian Community: An increase in mutually complementary economic relationships generates a dynamism promoting further development, which in turn leads to regional economic integration. Political tensions ease, regional security is strengthened, and finally the movement towards the establishment of a community accelerates. We must propose concrete content for this scenario and formulate a precise work schedule, or roadmap, towards the establishment of a Northeast Asian Community.
Third, if each nation in the region promotes development independently, it will not necessarily guarantee the sustainable development of Northeast Asia. It is essential to conduct investment from the perspective of the optimization of Northeast Asia as a whole, and to develop a blueprint as a guide for the effective establishment of social infrastructure. This will also function to attract investment from around the world to Northeast Asia.
Fourth, while the creation of a Northeast Asian Community should ultimately be advanced through discussions at the government level, prior to this it is reasonable to establish a Track II platform for joint discussions in which government officials and researchers participate in a private capacity, and to commence from the discussions held in such a venue, which we might term a Northeast Asia Economic Development Cooperation Forum. What is necessary here is that we achieve consensus among the relevant individuals in each of the nations of the region, and increase the centripetal force acting to bond those nations into a region. As the first step in this process it is essential to jointly prepare a Grand Design for Northeast Asia.
A variety of unpredictable factors, including the international situation, influence the concepts which should be included in a grand design and the time span such a design will require. However, we are projecting long-term planning towards the establishment of a Northeast Asian Community covering 20 years and concrete project plans covering a span of 10 years.
Our projected design considers Russia, Mongolia, China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan the "target areas" and we wish to formulate development visions and concrete plans for a variety of projects that will lead to deeper multilateral cooperation between these nations. The United States and the EU nations, with which Northeast Asia has close ties through projects related to the Bering Strait and the Land Bridge Concept, are seen as "related areas."
We term the area in which the largest number of development projects will be implemented the "basic area" of Northeast Asia. Taking into consideration the recent increases in the area covered by development projects and the increase in their scale, we are broadly applying this idea to the areas east of Siberia and north of Beijing and Tianjin and the areas surrounding the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, and the connected areas. As is clear, by contrast to traditional concepts of Northeast Asia, our conception of a grand design is based on the nation as a unit and the "basic area" covers a broad geographic range.
Because the ultimate goal of research on a grand design is the establishment of a Northeast Asian Community, we believe that it is now time for the establishment of a framework on a nation-by-nation basis to enable regional governments to recognize that the issue is not one of specific areas within the nation, but a more basic problem of considering the future of each nation in the region.
As the screen shows, the six Northeast Asian nations in total cover an enormous geographic area and possess tremendous social and economic power.
From the perspective of regional economic integration, closer cooperation among ASEAN+3 has been a much-discussed topic recently. However, first it is important to further increase interdependence within Northeast Asia, and to this end it will be necessary to deepen mutually complementary exchanges of resources, capital, technologies and labor power between the nations in the region.
We have outlined two basic guidelines for a grand design. The first is physical integration, that is, comprehensive and integrated establishment of basic social infrastructure. Infrastructure which will contribute to deepening the level of multilateral cooperation, such as extensive railway systems, highways, and pipelines, should not be constructed independently by each nation in the region, but should be established according to a consistent overall plan, and this also applies to soft systemic infrastructure.
The second guideline is "networking of clustered areas," which we consider an effective method for promoting regional development. When a specific development goal is sought in a certain area, the effectiveness of development will be enhanced if the various functions related to this area are "clustered." The intention of this guideline is to promote the integrated development of both "lines and planes" by establishing an organic network among strategic cluster areas, existing key cities and development projects conducted at the regional level by means of railways, highways and telecommunication systems. We intend to specify the "key areas," the areas that have the potential to become strategic clusters, in our Grand Design.
NIRA is presently making efforts to specify the key areas, development concepts and project plans which will prove consistent with the basic principles I have outlined. Given this, we are reviewing the plans in a variety of fields proposed to date by the nations concerned, and are exchanging perspectives with specialists in related fields. I am certain that we will ultimately be able to clarify the requisite direction for constructing both hard and soft infrastructures in all the fields essential to achieving the sustainable development of the entire Northeast Asian region. However, taking recent trends in economic development in the region into consideration, we can point to several strategic issues that must be responded to immediately. First, measures must be taken to conserve the environment, including measures ensuring the permanent preservation of the pristine ecosystems in the region. Given the close connection between energy and the environment, energy policy must also be addressed. Second, transportation, distribution and telecommunications systems which will serve as the foundation for the development of the region as a whole must be constructed. Third, the establishment of strategic cluster areas which will become central zones of economic development must be promoted. We intend to conduct joint research activities with specialist research institutes in the region to clarify mid- to long-term visions in the fields I have mentioned and establish action plans to respond to immediate issues.
As a specific example of a strategic development project, I would like to discuss the natural gas pipeline project which was one of the key projects involved in the plan for a "Northeast Asian Union for Energy and Environment Cooperation," which NIRA proposed in April 2001. In order to respond to energy and environment issues, considered the Achilles heel of development in Northeast Asia, this project seeks to achieve multilateral cooperation in the construction of a pipeline network to enable the rich natural gas resources of the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia to be supplied to the entire Northeast Asian region.
The realization of a natural gas pipeline network on the basis of multilateral cooperation rather than piecemeal construction by individual nations can be expected to disperse the risks accompanying the construction of the pipeline and reduce the wellhead price of natural gas. At present we are proposing the construction of a pipeline running through four nations, Japan, Russia, China and South Korea. In addition, it is possible that the establishment of other infrastructures in parallel with the construction of the pipeline will stimulate further demand for natural gas, amplifying the benefit of the pipeline to the region.
Another example is a major railway network referred to as the "Big Loop." This is a plan to construct an express railway network in the form of a loop connecting the central parts of Northeast Asia, forming a transport artery for the basic areas of the region. We are proposing the construction of this new transport route as a priority issue. This is a highly feasible plan, given that it basically represents an improvement of existing railway networks.
In addition, at the meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held in April 2004 in Shanghai, Japan ratified the "Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network" in which Tokyo was assigned as the starting point of "Asian Highway 1." Prior to realizing this plan, however, the "Japan-South Korea Undersea Tunnel" connecting Japan and the Asian continent must be constructed. Formerly considered a dream, the tunnel is now viewed as a realistic proposal.
In addition to a tunnel connecting Japan and South Korea, NIRA's Grand Design proposes the further extension of the high-speed rail network in the region. Via the Korea Train Express Gyeongbu Line and the Gyeongui Line, such a system would run through the Northeastern part of China, connecting, for example, Beijing, Shengyang, Changchun and Harbin, and would eventually link Northeast Asia with Europe via the Siberian railway. Such a high-speed rail network would enable us to travel by rail from Tokyo to London. It is time for us to commence feasibility studies to clarify the means of realizing this tremendous dream.
To conclude, I would like to discuss the thinking behind our projected roadmap towards the establishment of a Northeast Asian Community. We believe that deepening economic integration will contribute to facilitating the smooth easing of political tensions between the nations in the region, and this is the basic concept on which the roadmap is based. Regional development is being increasingly actively promoted in Northeast Asia at present, as demonstrated by the trilateral meetings between the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea, which have already generated positive results. We must take advantage of this favorable trend to further strengthen multilateral relationships through the process of formulating a grand design. To enable this, a permanent track II organization must be established as a common platform for discussions. Such an organization would enable the research results generated by regional research institutes to be centralized and intergovernmental discussions to be held with increased frequency. The best method of procedure then will be to learn from the example of the EU and to make step by step efforts to establish frameworks for multilateral cooperation aimed at responding to specific objectives in fields in which multilateral agreement can be easily obtained, such as energy. In the future, we project the establishment of a multilateral organization, a type of Northeast Asian OECD, to coordinate cooperation between the nations of the region, representing a further step towards regional integration. This is the basic thinking behind the roadmap.
To this end, NIRA has proposed the establishment of a network among research institutes from China, South Korea and other Northeast Asian nations to facilitate the exchange of information and opinion. This would represent a loose consortium for research on a Grand Design for the Development of Northeast Asia. We have already asked several research institutes to participate in this project. This consortium would serve as a common platform for establishing a grand design, and the results of its discussions would be able to be presented as proposals to the governments of the Northeast Asian nations and international organizations. I sincerely hope that the research institutes and researchers participating in today's conference will join us in working towards a Grand Design for Northeast Asia.
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