James Baker, as a United States special envoy, is wrapping up a
trip to Japan and China to discuss with leaders there strategies to
reduce Iraq's official debt. It is high time that US policymakers
and pundits recognize that the center of economic gravity is
shifting away from Europe.
While transatlantic partnerships remain important, US allies in
Asia - especially Japan and South Korea - are becoming increasingly
more important players in the search for global stability.
Given historical links and ancestral ties for the majority of its
citizens, US foreign policies have long reflected a distinct
Eurocentricity. The political browbeating over the rift between the
US, France, and Germany on the eve of the Iraq war illustrates this.
But the worries over unpleasant exchanges with France and Germany
overshadowed the fact that many other European countries had joined
the "coalition of the willing." Besides the 12,000 troops from
Britain, other Europeans that contributed to the multinational force
include Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Spain, Poland, Romania, Slovakia,
and Ukraine. And logistical support is provided by Italy, the
Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal.
Yet, while editorial writers and politicians anguished over the
Bush administration's insensitivities toward the French and the
Germans, US allies in Asia were stepping up to the plate.
In particular, the democratically elected governments of both
Japan and South Korea have been generally supportive of US policy in
Iraq and have pledged materiel and manpower to join coalition
forces. Indeed, Japan pledged active involvement in the Paris Club,
the informal group of official creditors studying ways to reduce
Iraq's debt, before Mr. Baker even left on his trip last week. In
another sign of solidarity, Japan is likely to forgive up to two-
thirds of the $4 billion Iraq owes Japan. And Tokyo has offered $5
billion for reconstruction in Iraq.
In the cases of Japan and Korea, their decisions to support US
efforts in Iraq came despite the fact that several Japanese
diplomats and South Korean reconstruction engineers were gunned down
this fall by Iraqi guerrilla forces in separate attacks. The two
countries remained firm in their commitment of support in the face
of considerable pressure from protestors urging their governments to
avoid further entanglement in Iraq.
From an economic standpoint, Japan contributes significantly more
than either Germany or France respectively. But even when the GDP of
the two European powerhouses is combined ($3.7 trillion), it is only
a smidgen more than is Japan ($3. …