A new era for peace, prosperityAt the three-day Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, which ended on Friday, former leaders from the Asia-Pacific offered insight on pending issues and their opinions on the direction for the region. The conference - hosted by the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC, along with Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, the International Peace Foundation and the East Asia Foundation - was attended by some 4,000 participants from 58 countries.
The countries in Northeast Asia are closely interlocked and mutually dependant on the economic front, and yet they are also mired in a constant state of tension due to disputes over security and diplomacy. China’s rapid ascent, Japan’s newfound military power and the U.S. pivot to Asia have deepened geopolitical complexities referred to as the Asian Paradox. North Korea’s mounting nuclear threat and the tightened security bond between the United States and Japan have only added to sensitivities and the lack of predictability in the region.
Stuck in the middle of the conundrum, Korea has not been able to manoeuvre out of the stalemate with North Korea nor with Japan. Former Japanese leader Yasuo Fukuda advised Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo to normalize tripartite ties. Howard and Clark also called for a middle-nation role from Korea and recommended an Asian security version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to contain and moderate any possibility of a face-off and skirmish in the future.
But a multilateral security body is useless unless it is based on mutual trust. A country is hardly likely to put its national interests at stake if it cannot rely on its partner.
Trust cannot be built on words alone. It can only grow through action and intercourse. The advice from Fedrica Mogherini, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is worth heeding. She said the EU nations built mutual trust by starting with common goals to which every member could contribute and helped one another. Northeast Asia could start building trust through small actions, like through a common project to plant trees to fight deforestation or student exchange programs. Personal and cultural exchanges can play a pivotal role in raising mutual understanding and trust. It is human nature to distrust another from unfamiliar culture. But at the same time, it becomes a challenge to learn something new. Culture can be most instrumental in enhancing understanding.
The Jeju Forum announced its own declaration on culture. The Jeju administration and the nonprofit World Culture Open proclaimed the launch of a platform to promote cultural exchange programs and policies. We hope the Jeju Forum will play a key role in building regional trust through cultural exchanges and contribute to lasting peace and prosperity in the region.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 23, Page 30