1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at Chatham House on 2 October 2014. The speech was titled “Security Challenges in Asia : The Relevance of the European Experience”.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
Professor Yamanaka, many thanks for your kind introduction; and Mr Sasakawa, thank you very much for making it possible for this important dialogue to take place between our two countries. I am delighted to be here, and to take part in it.
And I would like to thank all of you for participating in this two-
As one of the co-
The theme of this conference – the role of the nation state in tackling global challenges – is crucial in a world becoming increasingly global. Some people believe globalism will be the death knell for the nation state. They are wrong.
The nation state cannot – and should not – be ignored: it is not a derelict. National traditions, instincts and customs will never go away – and our world would be the poorer if they did. But we must recognize that protecting the nation state can sometimes lead to confrontation, where consensus would be more valuable. Cooperation is essential in confronting and solving the great challenges of today.
Let me begin with a fundamental truism: we live in a world that seems to become ever more perilous. We all wish this were not so – but it is. One only has to think of the mayhem in Syria, Iraq and much of the Middle East, the fighting in Crimea, the military and political conflicts in Asia, and the democratic deficit in parts of Africa to see where problems lie.
And this list is far from inclusive. A good dose of enduring optimism, and a firm belief in a more prosperous and secure world for all, are prerequisites for the world leaders of today as they confront the critical issues before them.
Even a casual look at our world shows how many global challenges must be addressed. In some cases, there are dangers we may be able to head off but, in others, they are tragically real and present: as we are seeing with so many innocent lives being lost due to the brutality of extremism.
The focus of this conference is Asia and Europe. Over the last forty years, the balance between the two has changed dramatically as Asia’s economic development has exceeded all expectations. Such economic growth inevitably leads to political authority. Today, in an increasingly global world, both Asia and Europe have an interest in events far beyond their own borders.
What does all this change mean for Asia and, in particular, Japan? Japan, with the third largest economy in the world, is a truly global player and will remain so. Since the 1980s when Japan’s leaders first articulated the concept of ‘internationalisation’, your country has steadily acquired a greater global role.
Today, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abe, Japan is building on this tradition to promote a more ‘proactive’ role in international affairs. I welcome the fact that Japan is raising her profile in this way – not least in taking command of international ‘anti-
The importance of Asia to the world is often seen through the lens of economic opportunities. This includes expanding trade and investment -
But there is far more to Asia’s future than that. Asia is a crucial political entity. While the world has its eyes on the Middle East and Ukraine, there are Asian security tensions that must not be ignored.
The first one I would highlight is China’s military rise, and her growing defence expenditure. I have spoken often enough about welcoming China’s emergence as an economic power. I do that most genuinely. Less welcome is that China is expanding her maritime presence in the East and South China Seas, and – in so doing – is creating tensions with – among others – Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The reason for concern is clear: China is acting in a fashion that potentially challenges the international order which, if she miscalculates, may provoke a response. This may never happen but is a risk, nonetheless. To recognize that risk is the first step in reducing it.
The second Asia tension is North Korea's de facto nuclear weapons status, and the prospect of renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula. There is likely to be a fourth nuclear test within the next 12 months.
At the same time, despite signs of small improvement in the economy, Kim Jong-
Other challenges -
One is the growth of popular nationalism, which has become a vibrant political dynamic in many countries. Where this manifests itself as pride in one's country, it is entirely benevolent: but if that sentiment becomes anti-
The risk is clear: if public opinion is conditioned to be fearful of external threats, this -
Another challenge is intra-
The world will be watching to see if statesmanship resolves this dispute -
But China's commitment to yet more tensions relate to historic relationships in poor repair: Japan and Korea being one instance although, in this case, diplomatic exchanges are now taking place again. This is how wise governments conduct themselves, for such tensions -
Unfortunately for Asia, she has some moribund institutions. Tri-
There are also concerns about energy security: as demand rises, supply remains uncertain. Following the Great Eastern Earthquake, Japan is now identifying new sources of energy, and debating whether her nuclear power plants should be reactivated. This is obviously a hugely sensitive issue within Japan, but long-
Nor is oil the only commodity we should be concerned about. We think of the ChinaTibet dispute as essentially political -
Separatism is also a threat in Southeast Asia: consider here the military coup in Thailand, and continuing insurgency in the Philippines. In Myanmar there is a growth in ethnic and religious conflict.
National governments struggle to deal with such problems at the same time as they try to keep up with awakening economic and political expectations -
Now let me turn to my own backyard: Europe. And, given the current debate in the UK, let me make clear I see our future inside the EU, not outside it. Today is not the occasion to develop this theme, so let me simply say that if the UK were to leave, both she and the EU would be weakened. That is not the way forward.
Given the opportunities and challenges Asia presents, European nations -
First, I believe that there are ways in which Europe could be a useful model for Asian countries in their own efforts to increase security through enhanced co-
There are also lessons to be drawn from individual countries and crisis-
Drawing from my own political experience, I can attest that personal relations at senior levels of government can play a vital role in reducing -
Since 1945, Europe has -
The second model sees Europe as a mediator in defusing tensions between Asian partners. At present, Asia looks at Europe's experience in confronting security challenges to see if there are lessons to be learned: perhaps one is that Europe could be more proactive in helping to resolve some of these challenges. Forgive me if this sounds presumptuous -
Europe could do more of this. Third party mediation is an under-
Bilateral cultural diplomacy also has a role: I offer as examples educational exchanges, and British Council initiatives in North Korea. These can help to minimise regional tensions and, in so doing, open the door to progress on sensitive human rights issues. Lectures from afar won't make progress; dialogue might. In this regard, I wonder whether there might be a role for an 'Educational Marshall Plan' in northeast Asia. If so, surely the UK and UNESCO could help.
To summarize, I would like Europe to be seen as an active partner, working side by side with Asian countries and institutions to address the world's challenges together. At present, I believe there is a valid argument that Europe-
It is beginning: consider Japan's establishment of a permanent Self-
I passionately believe that if we work and plan for a more efficient -
As we identify these threats we must seek to head them off. And by 'we', I mean everyone who can contribute. I repeat: in our global world, Asian problems impact far beyond Asia, and we all have a stake in the solution.
The world of today is very different to that of fifty years -
It is in our hands to shape it, to make it better, if we have the determination and the wisdom to do so.
That is why conferences like this are so valuable, and I wish you every success in your discussion and debate during the next two days.