- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Nation

ASEAN muddles through

BANGKOK — Thanks to [Thai] Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s shoddy behavior, the just-ended ASEAN summit in Vientiane contained real moments of excitement and unpredictability. Mr. Thaksin’s quick mouth almost threw the three-decades-long process of constructing the ASEAN way into a tailspin. He created history by becoming the first ASEAN leader to threaten to walk out of a summit if certain issues were raised — in this case the deadly Tak Bai crackdown.

It is interesting that even Burma maintained its silence.

Mr. Thaksin’s crassness served Burma very well, because it removed the spotlight that has been fixed on the political situation in Burma since the purge of pro-reform Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and fixed it on the south of Thailand.

It is obvious that ASEAN summits are no longer the main event on the calendar for many ASEAN members, the ASEAN-China meeting having taken its place as the region’s pre-eminent diplomatic event. …

What is amazing is that it has taken China just 10 years to win over ASEAN since the grouping condemned their giant neighbor over Mischief Reef.

Japan and South Korea are still fine-tuning their positions to catch up with China. Both countries have signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and started negotiations on free-trade agreements with ASEAN, but before their deals are put into practice, China and ASEAN will have advanced their economic cooperation further through early-harvest arrangements.

In the foreseeable future, China will remain the leader in East Asia when it comes to strengthening ties with ASEAN.

Asahi Shimbun

The crisis in Ukraine

TOKYO — Ukraine is facing its most serious political crisis since gaining independence in 1991.

The political storm was triggered by the vote count for the presidential runoff held [Nov. 21], which decided that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had defeated his opposition challenger, former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, by a slim margin of 3 percentage points. …

What is worrying is that the current conflict could further divide the country. The southeastern half has close traditional ties with Russia and tends to show a strong pro-Moscow sentiment. The northwest, once under lengthy rule by major European powers, is keen to join the European Union. The two regions are about the same size, with roughly equal populations.

But Ukrainian leaders should understand that if the political chaos continues, eventually leading to bloodshed, Ukraine would suffer serious wounds. Such a development would also have negative consequences for stability in all of Europe and on Russia’s relations with the United States.

Clarin

U.S. foreign policy

BUENOS AIRES — By choosing Condoleezza Rice to succeed Colin Powell as head of the State Department, re-elected President George W. Bush clearly signaled that there will be no changes to the foreign policy in place during his first term, particularly since September 11, 2001. …

During Mr. Bush’s first term, the war against terrorism and the extensive military occupation in the Persian Gulf revealed the limitations of the international community in managing conflicts and confronting inequality and imbalances of power.

In Mr. Bush’s second term, it is to be hoped that the United States will help establish a legal and legitimate system to manage relations among nations and communities beyond the pure use of force.

We are passing through a complex era, a period of inequality and threats to security and to peace. It should not be forgotten that this period is not the cause, but the result of not having a more capable and legitimate international system.

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