(Remarks delivered at the UPF International Leadership Conference 2021 ‘Toward Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula: Peace and Security’ on July 7-8, 2021)
Thanks to modern communication technology, we are gathered here despite great distances and time differences.
The coronavirus plague continues to claim precious human lives, devastate economies, and sets apart families and friends.
It also threatens international peace and security; and endangers the hard-won gains in building a just and lasting peace in the conflict areas.
Building an edifice of peace
We are pleased, however, that even in the midst of the raging pandemic, we in the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) have not lost the will and the spirit to advance the causes of peace and security, cooperation and development, and friendship and dialogue.
For these are the causes that unite us, causes that bring us together, causes that are larger than ourselves.
Our conference today is also our continuing modest contribution in building an edifice of peace, which is our universal longing and our most shared, yet elusive goal.
We in the UPF and IAPP have always believed that peace, though it may be difficult, elusive, and distant, is not impossible to achieve.
The world needs peace. Asia and the international community have had a surfeit of war and violence.
Two Koreas should adapt to global changes
Excellencies, friends: On the lingering tensions in the Korean Peninsula, we must point out that despite the occasional harsh rhetoric on both sides of the 38th Parallel, we in the UPF, IAPP, and other civil society organizations, must encourage and support direct talks between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Today the basic fact is that the distribution of power in the world is fast-changing, particularly in East Asia, and the Korean Peninsula must adapt to these epochal transformations.
Vietnam itself emerged from three bloody successive wars, winning against great powers, and its socialist government adopting a market economy, lifted its people from poverty to become today a rising peaceful economic power. North Korea can be like Vietnam, which is already emerging as a power in Southeast Asia.
The great example of course is how the two Germanys finally emerged from Cold War confrontation and totally united under then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, to become today the predominant economic power in Europe.
And China, under the great leader Deng Xiaoping, opened China to the world, lifted more than 500 million people from poverty and introduced appreciable elements of free enterprise capitalism to China’s socialist economy, which has propelled China to the second largest global economy and perhaps No. 1 within 10 years.
Revival of Six-Party Talks and Korean Unification
Excellencies, friends: We urge the revival of the long-postponed six-party talks among the US, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea which would contribute to enhancing political stability and security not only in the Korean Peninsula but in the Asia Pacific region.
Most importantly, hopefully, that someday North Korea and South Korea can perhaps be connected by a loose Confederation, until at some point in the future they can become a united Republic, with alternating presidency.
We in Asia and the global community must also build on the historic direct talks between former US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which we hope will eventually lead to a roadmap to an eventual unification and a lasting peace in the Korean Peninsula.
And the Six-Nation Talks could have a business-focused auxiliary to develop economic joint-ventures for deployment in the Korean north.
ASEAN Plus 4
Excellencies, friends: Perhaps the two Koreas should begin with some degree of economic cooperation. And the obvious way which of course should not take too much time is for Pyongyang to be invited to the East Asian Economic Grouping of the 10 Southeast Asian states and the three Northeast Asian states – China, Japan and South Korea. The ASEAN Plus 3 could become ASEAN Plus 4.
Indeed, North Korea should not be left alone and isolated as we push for political and economic integration in Asia.
Parliaments, political parties and civil society organizations should network with the leading think-tanks of Asia, US, and Europe to envision the architecture of Korean confederation and unification, actively revive Seoul’s Kim Dae Jung “Sunshine Policy,” promote a bipartisan approach among the major parties of the South, and draw on South Korea’s vaunted economic power, to help build the economy of the North under an economic and political Confederation of Korean Unity. (To be continued)