WIT Life #136: Asian affairs
By now President Obama has returned from his longest overseas trip since taking office, where he made stops in India, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. In Japan he took part in the Asian-Pacific Economic Consortium (APEC) held in Yokohama, pictured here with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his wife Nobuko this weekend.
However, for Japan the focus of the event was relations with China in light of renewed tensions between the two countries due to the leak of a video of a September collision between Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese fishing boat. The footage was taken near a group of disputed islands claimed by both Japan and China in the East China Sea, and it appeared on YouTube last week. This leak has shaken Japan government circles and the general populace, with this story dominating the news for the last week. Authorities don’t yet know how the leak occurred or who is responsible, but they are looking into the possibility of a Japanese civil servant being responsible.
Kan met with Chinese president Hu Jintao for 20 minutes on Saturday on the sidelines of APEC, their first formal talks since the initial incident. This exchange was reported as yielding little in terms of substance, but for the Japanese side the fact that they were able to meet at all was significant. Up until then Beijing had been resistant to any overtures, perhaps to appeal to domestic public opinion.
The APEC event resulted in a declaration called the Yokohama Vision, which highlighted the 21 participating member economies’ (Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Taiwan, the United States, and seven ASEAN members — Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) eagerness to take concrete steps to bring reality to their vision of creating a Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.