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The Quest for Peace and Prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and Beyond

Asia-Pacific and Beyond

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is often said that this is the century of the Asia-Pacific region. Encompassing half of the landmass of the world, home to 42% of the world population, and constituting 57% of the world GDP and 46% of world trade, the region is indeed on the rise.

The countries of the region have recorded impressive GDP growth, thanks largely to favorable markets such as the United States and strong domestic demands, and their economies are expected to remain robust in the coming years. The region is the growth engine for the global economy and an area of vital importance for world peace and stability.

However, despite the great economic success and huge potential, the security situation of the Asia-Pacific region remains fluid and volatile and a sense of community is lacking in the region. Deep-seated differences over history, political and economic systems, ethnicity, religion, and cultural traditions have prevented the countries of the region from seeking a shared destiny.

Indeed, when it comes to regional cooperation, the Asia-Pacific region is lagging far behind others. Fortunately, the realization that future peace and prosperity lies in community-building and integration is spreading around the region. And the experiences in such fora as the ASEAN+3, APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the East Asia Summit are proving that greater institutional cooperation on issues beyond economic ties is not only desirable but also attainable in the Asia-Pacific region.

These existing entities hold the seeds for the development of an effective, action-oriented body that can make a real difference on issues of peace and security. A more comprehensive and forward-looking way to improve upon the regional arrangements is needed at this point.

In my view, multilateral security cooperation in the Asia Pacific must incorporate three elements: first, it must aim to be a "cooperative" security, the benefit of which accrue to all participating countries; second, it should be a "comprehensive" security that comprises non-traditional as well as traditional security concerns; and third, it must embrace "human security" based upon the universal values of human rights and humanitarianism.

Europe has set the preeminent example for such multilateral cooperation. Following the Second World War, former foes of Europe boldly opted for multilateralism and interdependence as the surest way to keep them from fighting again and prosper together. Guided by leaders with vision, they started out on the process of security dialogue and economic integration in order to keep peace and spread democracy in Europe. They took steps to overcome hostility and established mechanisms for the forging of future-oriented relations.

The European experience with the EU and the OSCE tells us that action-oriented political leadership is vital to the creation and growth of successful multinational bodies. The time has come for such leadership in the Asia-Pacific, and this, in the first instance, from the essential power in the region, the United States.

The United States is vital to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. To some, community-building and integration in the Asia-Pacific region may sound more like a far-off vision than an achievable goal at this point. But with active US leadership, the realization of that vision can be greatly accelerated. I would certainly hope that such a vision and leadership are actively forming in the minds and hearts of the leaders of this great country, many of whom are present here this evening.