J-Forum discusses nukes in region

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J-Forum discusses nukes in region


Goh Chok Tong, former Singaporean prime minister, gives the keynote speech at the 14th annual J-Global Forum held in the Shilla Hotel in central Seoul yesterday. By Kim Hyung-soo

The 14th annual J-Global Forum was held in Seoul yesterday with Korean and foreign participants discussing a wide range of nuclear issues, including the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The J-Global Forum, hosted by the JoongAng Ilbo, has been held since 1996. It began as the Asia Press Forum, a gathering of leading editors and journalists.

In 2007, the forum’s name was changed and its participants broadened. This week’s meeting dealt with nuclear threats as well as the role South Korea must play on an ever-changing world stage.

The risks of a South Korea in possession of nuclear weapons were described by the president and CEO of the JoongAng Ilbo, Hong Seok-hyun, who gave the opening speech yesterday.

“If we follow the logic of Professor Kenneth Waltz, one of the founders of neorealism, the security regime in northeast Asia would become more stable over the long term after South Korea and Japan go nuclear,” Hong said. “However, the road to a nuclear South Korea and a nuclear Japan would cost enormous amounts of money and lead to insecurity and tension locally and globally. It will not be stability that awaits us at the end of the road.”

Other participants agreed that building relationships among Asian countries would help them gain power over shared threats.

Goh Chok Tong, former Singaporean prime minister, said during his keynote speech that South Korea could play an important role in building relationships among Asian countries undergoing rapid changes led by China and India.

“The balance in Asia is undergoing a fundamental shift, especially with China,” he said. “The general consensus in Asia is to adapt to growth by building a strong community of nations. This will not be easy.”

For starters, Goh said, the relationship between China, South Korea and Japan “remains delicate” as the ties are still “viewed with historical lenses,” especially Japan’s history of colonialism.

To get beyond those animosities, he said, is “for future generations and to resolve them is important.”

Goh brought up his own country’s time under British colonial rule, stating, “The end of colonialism left a diverse nation.”

To help South Korea ease into its responsibility, Goh offered the help of Asean, saying it could provide a platform for the Asian countries to talk, like the meeting the nuclear envoys of South and North Korea had in Bali, Indonesia, this summer at the 18th Asean Regional Forum.

“Asean is an unthreatening organization,” Goh reassured, “The Asean meetings can demonstrate peaceful outcomes from negotiation.”

North Korea was also discussed at length at the forum.

Victor Cha, professor at Georgetown University in Washington, said the United States would be focusing on getting North Korea to the negotiating table, especially because 2012 will be a significant year for many countries, including the United States and North and South Korea. He said the U.S. government has not achieved much regarding North Korea during the current Obama administration.

“I think [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton’s record in Asia has been quite good,” said Cha, “But where almost no work has been done is North Korea.”

Cha pointed out that sanctions and antiproliferation policies help deal with the spread of North Korea’s arms, but diplomacy is the only way to make essential changes.

“The only way to denuclearize is to negotiate,” he said.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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