TOKYO -- Asia may already have an alphabet soup of regional economic and security arrangements, but Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seems to believe there is room for at least one more. At a gathering of regional ministers, media and think tanks, Rudd argued that the region risked drifting in the face of challenges ahead.
"We need to plan -- we need to plan with each other, rather than against each other, as has often been the custom in times past," he said, addressing a two-day conference, "Asia Pacific: A Community for the 21st Century," held in Sydney beginning last Friday. The meeting was the culmination of 18 months of talks on creating a regional forum, spearheaded by Rudd's special envoy, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Dick Woolcott.
Rudd is not alone in seeking to create a new Asian bloc. Since coming to power this autumn, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has been pressing his vision of an East Asia community, including during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the U.N. General Assembly in September.