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North Korea nuclear threats worry South, Japan

By Taddeo Bwambale

Added 1st May 2016 10:12 PM

A panel of experts and ex-diplomats from China, Japan and South Korea held day-long talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to push for dialogue as a channel to resolve disputes in East Asia.

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The panel of speakers at the first trilateral public diplomacy forum held in China’s capital, Beijing

A panel of experts and ex-diplomats from China, Japan and South Korea held day-long talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to push for dialogue as a channel to resolve disputes in East Asia.

Taddeo Bwambale in Beijing

Threats from North Korea’s nuclear enrichment activities dominated discussions at the first trilateral public diplomacy forum held in China’s capital, Beijing on Friday.

A panel of experts and ex-diplomats from China, Japan and South Korea held day-long talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to push for dialogue as a channel to resolve disputes in East Asia.

“Japan worries a lot about North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests,” lamented Ishigaki Yasuji, the director of the Japan forum on international relations.

In March, the UN Security Council approved the toughest sanctions against North Korea shortly after it an alleged nuclear test and missile launch, both of which defied earlier sanctions.

Ishigaki gave account of how a missile launched from the North Korea (DPRK) landed into the sea right at Japan’s doorstep, putting the country’s security on high alert.

“Some countries like DPRK are testing ballistic missiles and conducting nuclear experiments. The situation complicated with so many risks,” he told delegates during a panel discussion.

Ishigaki maintains that tensions over North Korea’s tests and territorial disputes can best be solved through UN sanctions and trilateral talks held by the three countries.

“Japan is the only country to have suffered nuclear attack and we are uncomfortable with the DPRK testing nuclear weapons,” said Kaeda Banri, former leader of Japan Democratic Party.

While he agrees that dialogue can help ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, he insists that sanctions are not the fundamental answer since its leader is unrelenting in his pursuits.

 Shin Jeong Seong, former ambassador to China says the countries must not allow the North to conduct its next planned nuclear test.

“In spite of the new sanctions, the DPRK has continued to test ballistic missiles. This crisis may destroy peaceful environment,” he maintains.

Jeong, while encouraging the use of dialogue and negotiations to end the tensions, says sanctions against the North should continue, along with a tougher stance from China.

China, North Korea’s closest ally is opposed to further pressure on the North and worries that in an unlikely event of war, it would be forced to shoulder burden of refugees from the DPRK.

Moon Jeongin, a professor at Yonsei University in South Korea argues that sanctions will not deter the North from pursuing nuclear weapons.

“Sanctions are good but they cannot work. The DPRK will not give up,” he told panellists, suggesting that cooperation among the three neighbours is critical in pressing the North.

Zhao Qinsheng, former director of China’s state council information office said cooperation on security, economy and culture would boost relations and maintain peace in the region.

Wu Jianmin, a member of advisory committee on diplomacy at China’s foreign affairs ministry noted that that focus among the three must not focus on conflict but common interest.

“We have common interests. If you focus on conflict, you will fight one another. We need to build a community of common interest and destiny,” he stated.

For Shin Peonggi, the former Secretary General of the China-Japan-Korea cooperation Secretariat, the East Asian powers can borrow a leaf from Europe.

“We have carried on a lot of historical baggage. 70 years after world war but scars still remain. Germany and France put aside their differences in Europe. We can do that at home,” he said.

 



Economic shocks

During a separate panel discussion on the economy, Lin Yifu, former vice president of the World Bank told delegates that the economic slowdown was largely due to external reasons.

He predicted slower growth in coming years and said the economies will need to rely more on consumption and domestic demand to drive economic development.

According to Chi Fulin, the director of China’s reform and development research institute, East Asia the service industry and free trade agreement are the best shields against market turmoil.

Exposed to global financial shocks and battling domestic challenges such as declining birth rate, Itou Motoshige, professor at Gakuin University proposes cooperation in technology industries.

Jung Dok Gyu, South Korea’s former minister of industry resources suggests that the old ways of solving economic crisis have not borne fruit eight years after the 2008 meltdown.

“Developed countries rely on capitalism. But capital itself has turned out to be problem. Pumping money into the economy to revive it is temporary,” he says.

Lim Hoyeol, from South Korea’s institute of foreign economic policy says the three countries must cooperate to deal with challenges in technology, industries and environment.

A cheeky question asked by a participant about analysis that the US might soon surpass China as world's manufacturing hub, experts held opposing views.

While some argued that China will hold the edge in the future, other experts noted that US firms like Apple and Intel will maintain an edge in core industries since they design the brands.

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