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SCO confronts security, economic concerns
   CCTV.COM   2003-05-30 09:05:16   
    From a loose forum to the fully-fledged group it is now, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has been strengthening central Asian unity to protect regional security. But how important is this year's summit? And what role will the organization play in global politics?

    Every year since 2001, the leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have met under the banner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The six nations span the huge expanse between the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean -- areas that have long been a sensitive place for Islamic extremism and separatism. Now plans are afoot to expand the organisation's capacity to tackle those issues.

    Ruan Zongze, vice-president of China Institute of Int'l Studies, said, "They will work out some detailed arrangements, for example, the secretary office, which will be opened next year in Beijing. Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Deguang will become the first secretary-general of the office. Also in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, an anti-terrorism center will be set up. All these issues will be talked in this summit. After the meeting, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will be on a better footing for further development."

    With the US military establishing a stronger presence in Central Asia, the role of this regional organization has been under question. But most Chinese analysts believe it is more important than ever.

    The organization was originally established in 1996 to solve border disputes. It was called the "Shanghai Five." The September 11 terror attacks forced them to reconsider security in Central Asia. Uzbekistan joined SCO in 2001, when its own security issues became apparent. The six nations ratcheted up cooperation to wipe out terrorism in the region. They have also expanded their action into the economy. Last year, the six member states agreed to free up trade and investment within the region -- a key step toward establishing a free-trade zone. Observers say the organization will become more prominent in the future, once the mechanism is in better shape.

    Xing Guangcheng, vice-president of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "There is a great need for the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Member states need to solve regional security problems because security in the region has long been a difficult campaign to win. In addition, globalization has brought closer economic ties among the member states. Anti-terrorism and economic cooperation will be the two major tasks for the organization in the future."

    Other countries can join the organization and, so far, 10 neighboring states, including Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia and Japan have expressed interest in doing so.

    "Experts believe that economic cooperation will be the most promising aspect of the organisation's future. That's because each nation hopes to create a favorable environment for its own development. And it is on this basis, leaders of the six member countries have agreed to meet in the coming years.

Editor: Inner Wu

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