- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

Democracy in China

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso thinks China is on an “unavoidable path” to democracy, but he says he is worried about its military buildup.

Mr. Aso, on his Washington visit last week, called on China to open up its military budget, which, he said, has been growing at a double-digit rate for the past 18 years.

“In order to build confidence among its partners, it is important for China to increase its military transparency,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “China’s transformation into a truly democratic nation will also become an unavoidable path in the future.”

Until then, however, Japan, the United States and their allies in the Asia-Pacific region must work together to develop “deepening cooperation with China,” he said.

Mr. Aso noted that China’s swift economic development has created “both promises and tensions” in the region. Japan has benefited from an eightfold increase in trade with China since 1991.

“Yet, one should not overlook the fact that China faces bottlenecks, such as a growing gap between both the rich and poor and among different regions, as well as problems of environment, energy and water, which cast uncertainty over the prospects for dynamic economic growth in the future,” he said.

“Many observers are keenly watching to see if the Chinese economy can make a soft landing and achieve sustainable growth rates in the decades to come.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Nicos Efthymiou, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners, who leads a delegation that will meet with administration officials and members of Congress.

• Mayors Mahmoud Ahmad Abu jaber of Mua’z bin Jabal in Jordan and Hasan S.I. Hussein of Jericho in the Palestinian territories, Dov Litvinoff of the Tamar Dead Sea Regional Council in Israel, Wajdy Abdelhameed Masaadeah of Tabket Fahel in Jordan and Yael Shaltieli of the Beit She’an Regional Council in Israel. They are accompanied by a delegation from Friends of the Earth Middle East, which includes Chairman Munqeth Mehyar, Israeli Director Gidon Bromberg and Palestinian Director Nader al-Khateeb. They participate in a forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

• Mona Sahlin, Sweden’s minister for sustainable development, who meets with administration officials, members of Congress and representatives of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change.

• Saad Eddine el-Othmani, general secretary of the Party of Justice and Development in Morocco, who addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about Moroccan politics.

• Mario Monti, former commissioner of the European Union for competition policy, who addresses the Institute for International Economics about Europe’s economic future.

Tomorrow

• A delegation from the European Parliament that includes: Carlos Coelho, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Cem Ozdemir, Giovanni Claudio Fava, Jas Gawronski, J. Ignacio Salafranca Sanchez-Neyra, Wolfgang Kreissl-Doerfler, Giulietto Chiesa, Jean Lambert,Giusto Catania,Konrad Szymanski, Miroslaw Piotrowski and Roger Helmer. They meet with administration officials and members of Congress to discuss reports of secret CIA prisons in Europe and transportation of terrorism suspects.

• Alfredo Ferrero Diez Canseco, Peru’s minister of foreign trade and tourism, who attends a congressional reception to celebrate Peruvian culture.

• Laurel Broten, minister of the environment for the Canadian province of Ontario, who holds an 8:30 a.m. press conference at the National Press Club to discuss air pollution issues along the U.S.-Canadian border.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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