It's really an honor for me to be here again to participate in this Portsmouth process, Portsmouth Forum #2. I'd like to compliment our host, Charles Doleac, for his imagination and initiative in carrying forward this Portsmouth process. I think it's my function to try to establish an historical context for why we are here, and what all this means.
I'd like to start out by saying that we have moved into the long anticipated age of the Pacific. As short a time ago as fifty years, the North Atlantic was still the center of the world. The North Atlantic was the center of wealth, the North Atlantic was the center of decision-making. One might say the North Atlantic was the worlds city, and the rest was farm. Now, the North Atlantic has yielded to the North Pacific, and we are still trying to wrap our minds around this phenomenon.
The North Pacific is not as well defined as the North Atlantic, nor is it as dominant in world affairs as the North Atlantic was. In geography, this region stretches from Baja California to Hangzhou on the China coast, from San Diego to Shanghai, embracing all or parts of eight nations: Mexico, the United States, Canada, Russia, the two Koreas, China and Japan. This is a strategic fulcrum, where all four great powers meet. Only Europe is absent. It is a center for world economic activity, a center of manufacturing and international trade. The statistics say it all. 80% of consumer electronics, 40% of the worlds computers, 35-40% of automobile production, is performed in the Pacific Rim. The Pacific Rim has its heart in Honshu, Japan, and in California, but its magnetic influence extends beyond its frontiers, into Southeast Asia, most notably, the newest center of world economic activity, with some of the most rapidly growing economies. Because power inevitably follows wealth, all of us should now be thinking of the consequences of this great global shift.
The primary portion of the North Pacific is its western shores; perhaps for Americans we could view this as the new Far West, offering all sorts of opportunities if we but see them and take advantage of them. There in the western part of the Pacific, we are seeing the resurgence of East Asia as a vital core of world life: China, Japan, and Korea. China, traditionally the worlds largest economy; China, big, not only in sheer size, in area, but in number of people, and also traditionally in wealth. As late as 1776, Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations, spoke with great admiration of China and its wealth. During the last one hundred and fifty years or so, China fell far behind. China became poor. The first hint of the Pacific counterattack, if you want to call it that, against the hegemony of the North Atlantic in world affairs, was the war between Russia and Japan in 1904-1905, Portsmouths great day in international history. And I think this adds a special relevance to what Im saying to you this afternoon. The big lesson of Japans victory, which was obvious to some people, but not to everyone, was that modernization need not be unique to North Atlantic civilizations. The machine need not be the monopoly of the with man.
In East Asia, Japan then took and has maintained a lead over China in harnessing the tools of modernization for building a successful life in the world. Japan took the lead over China, the parent culture. Before the unfortunate aberration of the Pacific War in 1941-1945, when the militarists had seized command of Japanese political and social life, before that time, before the war, Japan had become a major regional power in Asia. After the catastrophe of war, and the relatively benevolent American occupation, came recover for Japan, and this was strongly encouraged and supported by the American government as an element of American policy.
Japan then began its ascent to the position of a global power, not simply a regional power but a global power.
Russia is, of course, the largest Asian nation. Russia has the longest Pacific coastline. But Russia has thus far failed to exploit these facts of geography, and before it the Soviet Union has been a Pacific power only in military terms. And I think defeat in the war, the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, did much to discourage a young, growing Russian interest in the sea and in Pacific Asia. So Russia today is conspicuous by its absence from the vitality of the Pacific Rim nations. Stalin and his successors, most notably Brezhnev, chose isolation as national policy. Pacific Siberia has remained more or less a military colony, a wasteland surrounded by a hedge of missiles.
I think some of this sense of isolation from the rest of Asia is reflective of Russian ambivalence towards Asia - I think I talked about that in our last conversation here; and a doubt, or uncertainty, about what Russia's role should be in Asia and toward Asia. Is Russia a bridge between Asia and Europe? Or is Russia a buffer between Asia and Europe? Fear, I would suggest, is the chief Russian emotion towards Asia historically, and this has a clear explanation, 1 think, in the Mongol experience. The Mongols swept in, as you probably remember, and conquered Russia. Western Europe was saved. But Russia endured a very unhappy time of dominance by these peoples from Asia. So this has colored Russian attitudes, 1 think, and I use the word deliberately, colored Russian attitudes towards these East Asian neighbors
Today, as we survey the grand international politics of the North Pacific, we note that the big four, China, Japan, Russia, the United States, are in an unusual mode. There is no war, either a hot war or a cold war. These nations are as friendly as ever before in history. And it seems to me that this is a great opportunity for imaginative diplomacy. Imaginative diplomacy is a conspicuous u in the case of Russia and Japan. I think it's fair to say that relations between these two nations are at a stalemate, largely because of the issue of disputed territories. Three islands and one small island group. Of marginal value, most people would say, except possibly for the fishing possibilities. The fishing industry may be interested. But the territories are not large in size, about 5,000 square kilometers, which is roughly the size, almost exactly the size of the state of Delaware. So, not large, but not a postage stamp. The islands really belong to the Ainu people, an ancient aboriginal trite, a group of people who were once spread over the Japanese archipelago, whose culture proved to be very fragile, like those of aboriginal peoples elsewhere, particularly in the boreal north throughout the globe. They've been pushed around; now they are nearly extinct. Their culture is vanishing. Here is a classic case, in other words, of the confrontation of two colonialist, imperialist powers, Russia and Japan, where native peoples were trying to live their own lives. Now this is a pattern that you could extend to other parts of the world, too. I don't mean to single out Russia or Japan for criticism here.
No one in East Asia cared much about international boundaries until the middle of the nineteenth century. The whole idea of a nation-state was a European concept, which was carried around the globe to East Asia and other places. The Japanese and the Chinese, and others, found the Atlantic world to be fanatically legalistic about such things. The Japanese first encountered this when they signed a treaty with the Russians at Shimoda in 1855. This delineated a frontier between Japan and the Russian Empire. And all the now-disputed territories were recognized as Japanese by that treaty. Before 1945, in the end of World War II, there was really no dispute. Japan held all the Kurile islands as well as the now disputed territories. Then in the last days of the war, the Red Army moved in and seized the islands. In 1956, when Japan and the Soviet Union restored diplomatic relations, the Soviets offered to return two of the islands in exchange for a peace treaty. They withdrew that offer in 1960, and then denied that the problem existed. But in 1985, along with other monumental changes that began to develop in Russia, then still the Soviet Union, attitudes began to change; and at least the northern territories, (or southern territories depending on your point of view), these disputed islands have become the subject for discussion. But the new order in Russia invests greater complexity into the issue, because regional interest groups have begun to have a voice. One of the great phenomena of world affairs now is the increasing sense that democracy is the wave of the future. To the extent this is true, it means that international relationships are going to be more complicated, more complex. Diplomatic relations between democracies are necessarily more complicated than those between authoritarian states, because there are more people to please.
Now, our two speakers this afternoon, both diplomats, are both specialists in areas relating to our concerns; they may want to present more about these specific issues that I have just touched on very tangentially, at least as they now perceive them, but I would like to pose two questions to them, and for you to think about too. How much, first of all, do you think each side really wants to resolve the problem? Is there a real will here for change, for resolution? How do you assess yourselves and the other party in terms of this need? Second question: in 1905 the United States played a very important role as intermediary, largely because Russia and Japan were willing, if not eager, for Americans to do so. Today, does the United States have a role as a possible mediator in this problem? Thank You