Our road to lasting peace, sustained prosperity and social stability may be long and arduous. But one thing is certain, our journey is now underway, and it will be much more difficult if we are so foolhardy as to try to do it all alone.
As my predecessors in office had done in the past, we actively seek the support and cooperation of friendly countries and partners.
In this global village, a nation's life and fate are inextricably linked with those of others. This is as true to us - in East Asia as it is in Europe and to yourselves in the Americas. For interdependence, integration and cooperation are the guideposts of today and tomorrow.
East Asian integration is on the march. In the economy sphere, ours is already one of the most integrated developing regions in the world. Our production networks are so closely interlinked. Intra-Regional Trade and Tourism are rising fast, even the gyrations of our currency and equity markets are highly correlated.
Consider for instance China, a country which for so long was a world unto itself. Before its opening to the world in the late '70s, China's economic ties with its neighbors were small or negligible. The trade volume between China and Japan was only a little over one billion US dollars in 1972; by 1999, it was more than 66 billion US dollars.
Last year, China's two-way trade with South Korea was 25 billion US dollars, and with the major economies of Southeast Asia. Nearly 27 billion US dollars, indeed, China's trade with its east Asian neighbors now exceeds that between China and America or between China and Europe.
Of course, the clearest proof yet of how closely linked east Asian economies are with one another was our common experience of three yearsd bad. Bad because the fundamentals of individual economies were summarily disregarded. And good because east Asians came to realize that they must count on each other's understanding and support.
Thus, the Asians contributions to the financial packages for South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia. Thus, China's restraint from devaluing the Yuan. Thus, the new Miyazawa initiative and the Obuchi plan. And last, the ASEAN economic and financial surveillance process.
And the spirit lives on. At the summit of ASEAN leaders with the leaders of China, Japan and Korea, which I chaired in Manila last year, we issued our firstever resolve to collaborate more closely towards regional stability, peace and prosperity.
Since that trailblazing document, economic ministers from the thirteen east Asian countries have identified nine areas for enhanced cooperation, such as information technology and Ecommerce.
Our finance ministers have launched the Chiang Mai initiative , a regional network of currency swap arrangements, as an initial step to prevent recurrence of the 1997-98 financial turmoil.
At the pace east Asia is now moving, an Asian monetary fund may be just around the corner.