[Viewpoint]Good things come in threes

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[Viewpoint]Good things come in threes

The Asean Plus Three Summit is to be held on Nov. 20-21 in Singapore. During this meeting, the “8th Trilateral Korea-China-Japan Summit” is also scheduled to take place.
The three countries take turns hosting the summit, and President Roh Moo-hyun will preside over this trilateral meeting.
Northeast Asia, which includes Korea, China and Japan, is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. It accounts for one-fourth of the world’s population and one-fifth of the world’s economy.
There are projections that it will grow to account for one-third of the global economy during the next two decades.
However, it is also true that regional cooperation among Korea, China and Japan has not yet fully reached its potential.
The level of cooperation among the three falls way short of that of the European Union.
This seems to be the case even considering the current reality, in which closer collaborations are required to deal with the rise in transnational issues such as climate change, development cooperation and transnational crime.
Facing these new and old challenges, the three countries should find ways to build regional cooperation.
Valuable lessons can be drawn from the history of European countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which overcame past conflicts to unite in pursuit of common interests in the European Union.
So far, Korea, China and Japan have held their summit and foreign ministers’ meeting mostly during the Asean Plus Three meetings.
On Korea’s initiative, a separate trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting was held last June on Jeju Island. It was the first time the trilateral meeting had been held independent of another multilateral occasion.
It is important that the three countries expand their scope of cooperation, starting in areas in which the cooperation is easy.
That includes starting with tangible sectors such as the economy, trade and culture, with a view to deepening cooperation in foreign affairs, security and other political areas. That process will contribute to enhancing stability and common prosperity not only among the three countries, but in the region as a whole.
Recently, there have been positive developments in the regional diplomatic and security environments, notably the progress on the North Korean nuclear issue and discussions about a Northeast Asian multilateral dialogue.
Korea, China and Japan should not miss this window of opportunity to upgrade their regional cooperation. Efforts should be made to ensure that the two wheels ― co-prosperity and peace security ― in Northeast Area work together smoothly.
With progress in economic areas and other tangible cooperation, more sensitive issues in the political and security areas must also be addressed at a pace that is comfortable to everyone.
In other words, balance is important in the entire process.
Korea has a very important role to play in these efforts. History shows that China and Japan have tended to cooperate well when their interests have corresponded, but the long-standing rivalry has impeded cooperation more often than not.
Korea, however, is relatively free of that obstacle. Korea shares many of the core values with regard to the political, economic and social systems of both China and Japan.
Korea’s role in reaching agreement on the Joint Declaration on the Promotion of Tripartite Cooperation (October 2003) illustrates that Korea can be a good facilitator in strengthening trilateral cooperation.
It can also be a “ball bearing” in the trilateral cooperation mechanism; it has played a leading role in launching airport shuttle routes and cooperative efforts for the prevention of annual sandstorms which spread dust from China over Korea.
As the host country, Korea will spare no effort to deepen and institutionalize trilateral cooperation at the summit.
Our expectations for major results include establishing a “Cyber Secretariat” for trilateral cooperation, promoting cooperation in the security regime for coastal defense and expanding air services.
We believe that the 2007 Trilateral Summit will represent another significant milestone on our path to a Northeast Asia of peace and co-prosperity.

*The writer is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea.

by Song Min-soon
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