Joseph Ejercito Estrada (www.pentagon.gov)
I believe very strongly that east Asia is taking the right path. Greater economic integration does not only provide avenues for advancing shared growth and prosperity, it also improves the likelihood of lasting peace.
Of course, one will always remind us that Germany and Britain were each other's largest trading partner in the early years of the last century, but that did not stop them from waging world war I on opposite sides.
There indeed are no guarantees, but if the French and Germans could put aside centuries of war and deep antagonism, if a European union can grow from the seeds of a steel, and coal community, I see no compelling reason why, say, ASEAN plus three cannot flower into an agent of global peace and stability.
An Asian scholar recently observed that the Asian crisis has served as the most important defining event of regional security since the end of the cold war. It "revealed not only the vulnerabilities of the region of External pressures. But also the inherent weaknesses in the internal foundations of regional security."
Indeed, terrorism, transnational crime and other scourges add new fuel to the old hurts left over from colonial past, and as we in the Philippines are so keenly aware, religious extremism - not only in my country, but in many areas of the region - is again rearing its ugly head.
If allowed to deteriorate, by indifference of meager action, the small fires that have now begun burning may engulf us all and it will be small solace to America that our region lies on the opposite side of the globe.
For our vision of one east Asia is not of a monolith pitted against others. The world is too small for that.
We know and are truly thankful that the road to Asian recovery passed through Washington and New York. Without America's locomotive, the Asian train would still be stuck in the station. Without America's commitment to fairness and openness, the Asian crisis could have been a global catastrophe.
And we know, too, that for us to have peace in Asia we need America, not so much because America alone has the might, but because America is peerless in championing the ideals of the peace we want - a peace with freedom.