Opening Remarks on 2020 Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum
Seoul, December 3, 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am Joonhyung Kim, Chancellor of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
It is my great pleasure to have you all online for the 2020 Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also delighted to bring together experts from around the world for this year’s Forum. Thank you very much for participating. The current pandemic sweeping the world took precious opportunities to have face-to-face discussions away from us. But I firmly believe that all of us are united against the challenges thrown by COVID-19, and poised to hold onto our passion to continue dialogue on promoting peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.
Over the past years, Northeast Asia’s geo-political landscape has been extremely complicated by intense rivalries among regional players. They have been sharply pitted against each other on various issues. Controversy over the validity of international norms has often flared up. And differences on economic and trade issues, and striking balance in military and security issues have led to escalating tensions in the region. And this year, the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters have thrown Northeast Asia’s complicated geo-political landscape into further disarray. In the face of overwhelmingly frustrating developments, it has been especially difficult for all of us to talk about hope and optimism this year.
With everything going down, it is quite ironic that current challenges are prodding us to pioneer a new way forward with a new vision. It is imperative that we have a platform for candid discussions not to be engulfed by the rising tide of tensions that could erupt into unwanted, unnecessary conflict. And many of us would concur that we need to share visions for the future to navigate smoothly through challenges in a rapidly changing political landscape.
Unfortunately, having such platform involving multiple players is a relatively new concept to Northeast Asia. Most of the discussions in the region have centered on bilateral relations. And the role of multilateral platforms to complement the limitations of bilateral discussions and iron out differences has been limited. While there has been some progress in the economic sector, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), it is true that little progress has been made in addressing “hard issues,” mostly on military and security issues, by advancing shared visions for peace and cooperation.
For this reason, the Korean government has made continued efforts to diversify constructive agendas on regional cooperation in Northeast Asia. And in line with such efforts, the Moon Jae-in administration has been endeavoring to promote a multilateral dialogue and cooperation through the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Platform. These efforts are guided by a long-term vision that brings together the core countries in the region as well as other important relevant countries and international organizations to create the Northeast Asia Plus Community of Responsibility. In a similar vein, the output document of the eighth Trilateral Summit held in December 2019 states that Korea, China and Japan agreed to make joint efforts to further facilitate regional dialogue and foster trust, which includes engaging in academic interactions under the framework of trilateral cooperation with participations from other relevant partners.
With a shared sense of purpose for devising a new multilateral peace and security framework in the region, this year’s Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum will cast light on Europe’s experience. Today’s discussions will focus on the Eastern and Western European countries, whose tireless efforts at creating multilateral security arrangements had finally come to fruition. The key members of the NATO and the Warsaw Pact made collective efforts to tackle security challenges under the CSCE umbrella and managed to design set of multi-layered confident-building measures. The answer, of course, does not necessarily lie in simply applying the CSCE’s arms control regime to the Northeast Asian context, but lessons learned from the CSCE’s “non-confrontational approach to hostile confrontation” will stimulate constructive discussion on ways to build new confidence building measures that works well for Northeast Asia.
I want to share with you an inspirational quote that was commonly used 20 years ago: “A dream becomes a reality when we all share it.” When faced with bitter reality, some of us would feel disappointment and frustration, and even goes as far to believe that it is impossible to carve out a better future for all of us. And due to diverging interests and views, a vision for a brighter future is often criticized as unrealistic idealism. But I dare say, it is too early to give up on our vision for a better world. A long and hard road may await us, and I believe the only way to navigate the path forward is to inspire more people and get them to believe in our vision.
So, I ask all of you joining our two-day event to speak with passion. Bring your perspectives to the forefront. Please share your ideas and insights with us, so we can reassure ourselves that creating a new confidence-building measure in Northeast Asia is still a desirable end goal for all of us. Let us bring the insights of scholarship to discuss what we, as major countries constituting Northeast Asia, can do right now to attain this goal. Let us explore the most realistic approach that will help us pursue this goal that we are never going to let go. With challenges looming large on the horizon, there is one truth that we should all keep in mind: Peace and cooperation – the two values we share – will always underpin our efforts at charting Northeast Asia’s path forward. Today, Let’s put our heads together to uphold this truth.
I look forward to fruitful discussions today and hope to gain new, brilliant insights.
Thank you very much.