The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea put aside their differences to discuss Asia's role as the "centre" of global economic growth and how to make progress on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
AFP - The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea pledged Saturday to drum up funding to spare Asia the worst of the global financial crisis, vowing to serve as an engine to revive the world economy.
The East Asian powers also called for restarting efforts to end North Korea's nuclear drive as they held an inaugural joint summit that would have been unthinkable a few years ago due to rocky ties.
"In a sense, the current financial crisis made this summit come true," Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told a joint news conference.
The three leaders, whose countries account for three-quarters of Asia's total gross domestic product, cast the dreary financial news aside and said the region was "expected to play a role as the centre of world economic growth."
Aso, hosting the summit in his home region in southwestern Japan, said that cooperation among the three nations would "contribute considerably to the stability and prosperity of Asia and the world."
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned against any global drift towards protectionism. All three Asian nations have been badly affected by falling exports to the troubled US market.
"The Chinese government will take responsibility and face up to the various risks while working together with East Asian countries to overcome the crisis," Wen said alongside Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.
The three leaders called for an urgent capital infusion into the Asian Development Bank, which has warned that the financial turmoil is quickly eroding its ability to fund projects in the region's poorer countries.
The leaders also called for quick action on setting up a regional fund to avert financial turmoil. It would supersede the Chiang Mai Initiative, a system of bilateral currency swaps set up after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.
The three Asian powers along with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had in October agreed to create an 80-billion-dollar joint fund by next June to protect the region from further upheaval, according to South Korean officials.
But the summit was bigger on symbolism than specifics, with the three leaders hailing an era of smoother relations.
China and South Korea for several years until 2006 refused high-level meetings with Japan due to disputes related to Tokyo's wartime aggression in Asia.
"It is quite a milestone to hold a stand-alone China-Japan-South Korea summit," Wen said when he opened a one-on-one meeting with Aso.
The three nations will hold joint summits annually, with the 2009 edition to take place in China.
The leaders also said they would instruct their governments to conduct further studies on the elusive goal of a regional free-trade agreement.
They also agreed to cooperate on disaster management, with Japan hosting the first ministerial meeting next year, and to conduct joint studies on air pollution and migratory birds that spread bird flu.
But in one sign of lingering tensions, Aso complained to Wen that Chinese ships recently intruded into waters Japan considers its own in the East China Sea near a chain of disputed islets.
Aso told the Chinese premier the incident was "extremely regrettable," to which Wen responded that the islands had been Chinese since ancient times, according to a Japanese official.
The three leaders came together to urge a resumption of diplomacy to end the nuclear programme of neighbouring North Korea.
The latest round of six-country talks -- which involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- collapsed in Beijing on Thursday, leading Washington to halt fuel aid shipments to energy-strapped North Korea until it agrees to a written plan to verify its nuclear disarmament.
Date created : 2008-12-13