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North Korea must sincerely respond to call of Asia for peace
Annual foreign ministerial meetings of ten ASEAN member countries and surrounding countries held on July 24-28 in Kuala Lumpur took up the North Korean issue as a major point of discussion. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) held on the final day also intensively discussed it.
The ARF Chairman's statement said, "The Ministers emphasized that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is essential in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region, and voiced support for the peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue through dialogue." It also called for the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks and early implementation of the Joint Statement on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula adopted in September 2005. With regard to the missile test-firing by North Korea on July 5, the statement urged North Korea to re-establish its moratorium on missile testing, taking note of the unanimous adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution and the rejection of it by North Korea.
Overcoming war and division
The ARF statement is reasonable since it expressed its intention to pursue the peaceful settlement of North Korea's nuclear and missile issues. Given the fact that the ARF is a multilateral forum in which North Korea participates and in which all members of the Six-Party Talks participate, the Chairman's Statement takes on special importance.
North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun expressed his rejection of it, but this is a call unanimously agreed on by all East Asian countries except North Korea. The statement also implies that only when North Korea, responding to the call of the ARF which represents the wishes of Asia and the world, shares the common ground with the regional and the international community, will the country be able to solve its own problems as a responsible member of Asia.
ARF, in which 25 countries in Asia and the Pacific plus the European Union take part, has increased its weight because it has consistently pursued the solution of issues through peaceful negotiations based on the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) and other international agreements, and not relying on military alliances or use of force.
The ARF participants reaffirmed the importance of the ARF "as the main multilateral political and security forum in the region" and agreed to its further strengthening. They also emphasized their support for ASEAN as "the primary driving force" of the ARF. While focusing on issues in Asia and the Pacific, the ARF takes up other international issues affecting the region, promoting well-considered dialogues and consultations.
Abdullah Badawi, Prime Minister of the current ASEAN chair Malaysia, emphasized in his opening speech the history of ASEAN: Although "Southeast Asia was deeply divided" during the U.S. war of invasion on Vietnam and the Cold War, Vietnam's participation in 1995 was a turning point, and ASEAN has become able to play a positive role that "has kept the peace between its members, enabling regional cooperation to flourish and contribute to the economic and social well-being of the people." A call for peace from this region that has overcome the painful experiences of war and division and continued to strive for peace and cooperation should be most urgent for people in the Korean Peninsula who are also seeking a way to overcome war and division.
Public opinion of international society
The ARF's appeal shows that the call for peace in the region as well as in the international society is strong, while its member state governments may have different strategies. The United States also reaffirmed its position that "when they are back in the diplomatic game, if they are prepared to be a member of the six-party talks, we're prepared to have as many bilateral meetings as they can stand" (Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Christopher Hill). The U.S. this time has fallen into step with Asian countries in pursuing a diplomatic solution to North Korea's nuclear and missile issues.
It is a diplomatic solution that ARF member states including the U.S. have unanimously called for, and we strongly urge North Korea to sincerely respond to this call.
- Akahata, July 30, 2006
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