President seeks closer regional ties

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President seeks closer regional ties


Korean President Park Geun-hye, center, delivers a speech while Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and China’s Premier Li Keqiang listen during the ASEAN+3 Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan yesterday. [Joint Press Corps]

President Park Geun-hye’s “Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative” gained some backing at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)+3 summit and the broader East Asia Summit (EAS) in Brunei yesterday.

Introducing the initiative, she laid out a plan to broaden what she calls a “Korean Peninsula trust process,” a call for dialogue and exchanges to foster trust and reduce tensions with Pyongyang. She said, “Although mutual dependence and economic cooperation among Northeast Asian countries have shown progress, cooperation in the political and security spheres remains at a low level. Given that such a paradoxical situation originates in the lack of mutual trust, closer cooperation in more sectors in Northeast Asia will contribute to regional cooperation in East Asia.”

She was speaking to leaders of the 10-member Asean bloc and Korea’s two Northeast Asian dialogue partners, China and Japan, in Bandar Seri Begawan. At the twin summit meetings, leaders from the United States, Japan and Australia urged North Korea to implement fully the United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The calls echoed Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s statement a day earlier, speaking as chairman of the Asean summit. “We stressed the need to maintain peace, security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and encouraged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions as well as its commitments under the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement of the six-party talks,” he noted.

The leaders also agreed later on Wednesday to establish a security dialogue channel at their yearly gatherings to discuss North Korea, with the first forum expected to be held next year as Seoul proposed.

The East Asia Summit is a forum composed of the 10 Asean countries plus its eight dialogue partners - Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia, India and New Zealand. Launched in December 2005, the EAS was joined by the United States and Russia in 2011. The endorsement from EAS members as well as the chairman of the Asean summit could put additional pressure on North Korea to drop its nuclear ambitions.

During the Asean+3 meeting, Park urged member countries to take steps to implement the second East Asia Vision Group (EAVG), an idea first proposed by former President Lee Myung-bak at the Asean+3 summit in late 2010. The institution, consisting of noted figures and academics from the 13 Asean+3 nations, will study the future direction of the regional cooperation mechanism and prepare a new “vision statement” for regional cooperation and community building. It has also set a goal of starting an East Asian Economic Community by 2020.

The first East Asia Vision Group report was written in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis; countries in the region tried to find ways of fighting turmoil in financial markets and institutionalize political, social, economic and other cooperation.

Wrapping up her two-day visit to Brunei, Park left for Jakarta yesterday evening.

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