World leaders discuss Asia’s rise and joint rule in Jeju
“The Asia Pacific region now contributes 40 percent of global output and two-thirds of its growth,” said Goh Chok Tong, former prime minister of Singapore, in a keynote speech during the opening ceremony of the forum held at the International Convention Center Jeju. “If Asian economies can maintain their growth momentum and adapt to the shifting global economic and technological advances, Asia would account for half of global GDP output by 2050.”
He pointed out that Jeju Island is 2.6 times the size of Singapore, adding that especially for such smaller countries, it is all the more important to enhance cooperative and “open-minded leadership.”
Some 4,000 participants from around 60 countries, as well as the UN secretary general, gathered for the forum which, over the course of three days, will host 60 sessions on a range of topics covering politics, foreign affairs, economics, security, environment, education and culture.
Key global leaders participating this year included former Prime Minister of Italy Enrico Letta, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Jim Bolger, former Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad and former Prime Minister of Japan Tomiichi Murayama. Korean dignitaries include Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong and two former Korean prime ministers, Han Seung-soo and Lee Hong-koo.
“Every day, I proudly draw on my Korean and, more broadly, Asian heritage,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his keynote address at the opening ceremony. “And I look to Asia for global leadership. This powerful continent is critical for prosperity and security around the world.”
This marks Ban’s second time participating in the forum, and the UN chief focused on the need for global action, regional cooperation, stability on the Korean Peninsula and universal human rights. In his speech, he called on countries to speedily ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change, embrace the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and practice tolerance.
“Asian countries must rise above conflicting interpretations of history,” he said, adding that addressing the past “squarely and humbly” is a way to focus on the future and bolster trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan and China.
On Pyongyang, Ban said, “the world must hold a firm line,” calling for faithful implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2270 in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and ballistic missile tests.
Ban said that the rise in tension on the Korean Peninsula could cast a shadow across the Northeast Asian region, but added, “I welcome all efforts to move forward - and I stand ready to personally contribute in any way that might be helpful.”
New Zealand’s Bolger said that, because of his Irish heritage, he relates to the division of the Korean Peninsula for over 70 years.
“I suggest it is not too idealistic to seek a resolution perhaps similar to the so called ‘Good Friday Agreement’ that was negotiated in Ireland,” said Bolger, referring to the Northern Ireland peace process which led to the agreement in Belfast in 1998.
He continued, “If that could be accepted, then all involved can focus on achieving the goal of peaceful collaboration on the peninsula which could, in time, not immediately, lead to the unification of the Korean Peninsula.” In comparison, he said it took 77 years from the partition of Ireland in 1921 until the agreement in 1998.
Murayama, perhaps best known for his 1995 apology for Japan’s wartime aggression, emphasized that his statement should continue to be upheld. Lauding the Dec. 28 agreement between Seoul and Tokyo on the issue of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, he said, “I believe it is appropriate for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to send a letter of apology to the victims, who are elderly, through the Japanese ambassador to Korea. I conveyed this message to Japanese Foreign Minister [Fumio] Kishida already.”
The former heads of state also emphasized a message on the futility of war during the World Leaders Session, which tackled the theme of this year’s forum: “Asia’s New Order and Cooperative Leadership.”
“In Malaysia, there is a movement today to make war a crime, to criminalize war,” said Mahathir. “War should not be used as a solution to conflict.”
The panel, moderated by Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC, discussed the rivalry between China and the United States, the integration experiences of Europe and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Asia’s new order.
“Geopolitics in East Asia is in the midst of turbulent times,” said Hong. “At the heart of the issue lies a rising China trying to reflect more of its interests and perspectives in the regional order, while the United States responds with its rebalancing strategy.”
He pointed to the confrontation and conflict between the two great powers in numerous areas including the South China Sea issue, trade, cyber security and human rights.
“As a result, we are seeing a new fault line opening up in East Asia, with the United States and Japan on one side and China and Russia on the other.” This makes various conflicts such as maritime security, the North Korean nuclear development and economic growth increasingly difficult to deal with, he said, a reality that “concerns and worries” many.
Italy’s Letta discussed European integration, saying “the image today of European democracy is the European Parliament.” The parliament brings together hundreds of officials of 28 countries in the city of Strasbourg, France, a location which is significant because it was “the frontline of wars in the centuries in which European countries were at war against each other.”
Letta continued, “We have one generational problem - the new generation is not completely aware of what happened 70, 80 years ago, and how the European integration is, and was, so decisive to end that war among European countries. We take peaceful coexistence in the European Union for granted - but it is a day by day victory to continue this integration.”
Koh, meanwhile, had a simple message to current and future leaders of Asia as the world becomes an Asia-Pacific-centered one: “Don’t blow it.”
Diplomats - including Canadian Ambassador Eric Walsh and Indonesian Ambassador John Aristianto Prasetio - took part in an ambassador’s roundtable in the afternoon moderated by Ju Chul-ki, a former senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, to tackle relevant regional and issues such and economic growth, unemployment, terrorism and climate change. German Ambassador to Seoul Rolf Mafael said, “Germany in particular has a strong link to Korea as having been a divided country, and Korea is a divided country. We are offering and will keep offering any advice that the Korean government has been looking for on this issue.”
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]