Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew spoke with Time magazine reporters
TIME: The coming East Asia summit is an unprecedented gathering of Asia’s leaders. Do you see it as an epochal moment for the region?
LEE: It happened in an unplanned, almost accidental, way. Abdullah Badawi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, offered to host an East Asia summit: ASEAN plus three”the three being China, Japan and South Korea. China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, then offered to host the second summit. That would move the center of gravity away from Southeast to Northeast Asia and make some countries anxious. We agreed that we should also invite India, Australia and New Zealand and keep the center in ASEAN; also, India would be a useful balance to China’s heft. This is a getting-together of countries that believe their economic and cultural relations will grow over the years. And this will be a restoration of two ancient civilizations: China and India. With their revival, their influence will again spread into Southeast Asia. It would mean great prosperity for the region, but could also mean a tussle for power. Therefore, we think it best that from the beginning, we bring all the parties in together. It’s not Asians versus whites. Everybody knows Australia and New Zealand are close to the U.S. There shouldn’t be any concern that this is an anti-American grouping. It’s a neater balance.[Full Text]