Wickremsinghe emphasised that Asian countries do not wish to be forced to manage competing pressure from both China and US…writes Susitha Fernando
Welcoming Japan’s cooperative approach to have peace in the Asian region and dialogue between all nations, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday said that Japan, China, India, and ASEAN, should commence an open-ended dialogue amongst themselves and thereafter with the other Asian countries as a first step in establishing a new framework for Peace and Cooperation in Asia.
In his address at the “Nikkei Forum: Future of Asia” held in Tokyo, he stressed on Asia’s significance as the world’s largest economic zone, home to 60 per cent of the global population, and a major contributor to global growth.
As per the full speech shared by the President’s Media Division (PMD) in Colombo, Wickremesinghe highlighted Asia’s potential for continued growth, despite setbacks on the global stage.
“China’s recovery, together with a healthy domestic demand in India, will be the main supports of growth for the region. Asia also has the advanced economies of Japan and South Korea contributing to the region’s development, through foreign investments and technology transfers,” he said.
Referring to the US-China rivalry in the Asian region, Wickremsinghe emphasised that Asian countries do not wish to be forced to manage competing pressure from both parties. the pressure on Asian countries to choose between the US and China is being resisted by many.
“We in Asia don’t want to choose between US and China. Many of us cannot make that choice because we have already made our choice, and that choice is Asia. We want an Asia that can accommodate the Indo-Pacific, the BRI, as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” he contended.
However, Wickremesinghe, who took over the country after political and economic turmoil in 2022, said though a member of China’s BRI initiative, Sri Lanka has no security arrangements with China nor they intend to enter into any security agreement with China.
“Asia has become the crux of US-China rivalry. The intensification of that rivalry in recent times has brought about the QUAD (between the USA, India, Australia, and Japan) and the Indo-Pacific on one hand and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the other.”
Highlighting the importance of Asia, Wickremmeinghe said that not only has Asia become the global economic powerhouse but has become the most dynamic region.
“Claiming nearly 30 per cent of the Earth’s land mass, Asia is home to 4.75 billion people, which is about 60 per cent of the world’s population. The region is now the world’s largest economy,” he stated.
Highlighting the impact on climate change specially on the Asian region, the Srin Lankan President advocated that Asia should agree on a common timeline for achieving carbon neutrality, based on the shorter period upheld by some of the industrialised countries in the region.
“This is possible if an agreement is reached amongst China, India, Japan, Korea and Indonesia,” he said.
“By mid-century, rising waters will impact nearly a billion people in the Asia-Pacific region. It is regrettable that as many as eight of the fifteen countries affected by climate change are from Asia: Maldives, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Ironically, the region is also a key cause of the climate change crisis. We produce about half of the world’s carbon emissions and have 5 of the largest greenhouse gas emitting countries. One cannot emphasise the urgency for policies and actions to curb emissions on the part of these countries.
A single Asian voice devoid of disharmony needs to be present at COP 28. The success of this conference will depend on the ability of the key Asian nations to come to an agreement,” Wickremesinghe warned.