3-Nation Forum Created

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3-Nation Forum Created

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei - Meeting on the sidelines of the Asean+3 summit taking place here, leaders of South Korea, Japan and China on Monday agreed to found a three-way business forum to coordinate joint investments and multilateral corporate exchanges between the three countries.

The forum, dubbed "South Korea, China, and Japan Business Forum," will be made up of large business groups and private-sector officials.

The formation of the forum is the key point in a five-point agreement that details wider cooperation in the economic and cultural fields among the three countries.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji agreed to have their finance and trade ministers and their foreign ministers meet regularly.

They also agreed to heighten police cooperation to counter international crimes and drug trafficking, and to cooperate on tourism. The three leaders also envisioned founding an "Information Technology Standard Council," as an apparatus through which the three countries would cooperate on measures to standardize fourth-generation wireless technology.

The ambience at the summit was pleasant, as the leaders put aside political affairs to focus on economic matters. Diplomatic tension between South Korea and China over Seoul's false accusation against Beijing in regard to the execution of a 41-year-old South Korean drug trafficker in China was not reflected. Nor was there mention of the Japanese history textbooks that both Seoul and Beijing have protested, or of Mr. Koizumi's August visit to the Yasukuni War Shrine.

Monday's agreement was seen as an effort to jump-start an East Asian economic bloc, starting with the three countries.

Mr. Kim proposed that the ASEAN+3 Summit be expanded into an "East Asia Summit Conference," which would give South Korea, China, Japan, currently dialogue partners of the ASEAN group, a full-fledged member-nation status. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"With the world economy realigning into economic blocs such as the North American Free Trade Area and the European Union, East Asia will lag behind if we keep to the loosely-bound entity of Asean+3," said Mr. Kim.

He also proposed that an "East Asian Free Trade Area," and an "East Asian Forum" be set up. The birth of an East Asian bloc would increase the portion, currently 33 percent, of intraregional trade in East Asia. Intraregional trade within the European Union is 61 percent and in the North American Free Trade Area, 46 percent.

Mr. Kim's proposal was based on the summary report drawn up by the East Asia Vision Group formed in 1998. The proposal will be adopted as an agenda item at next year's Asean+ 3 Summit.

by Kim Jin-kook

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