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Northeast Asia Peace Initiative

Vladivostok Conference: From Conflict to Dialogue on the Korean Peninsula

Vladivostok, Russia - An international conference on "Towards a Road Map for Peace and Development in Northeast Asia: From Conflict to Dialogue on the Korean Peninsula" took place on May 30, 2014 in Vladivostok. The event was attended by 100 experts from Russia, the US, South Korea, China and Japan who discussed issues of security and cooperation in the Northeast Asia. This topic attracts broad attention, especially in connection with the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The dramatic division of Korea continues to be the focus of international attention and remains a subject of academic debate. Experts, public figures and statesmen call upon academics, politicians and the public in the region to focus their attention on creating a model of sustainable and progressive inter-Korean dialogue and make it irreversible, based on a system of transparency and mutual trust. Among the topics discussed were: denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the role of external factors in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, international programs to promote the socioeconomic development of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the DPRK involvement in regional economic and political cooperation, development of plans for sub-regional cooperation in the energy sector and promotion of cultural and humanitarian cooperation and human exchanges on the Korean Peninsula.

The conference was initiated by the Universal Peace Federation and the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of Peoples in the Far East, Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography is the only academic institution in Russia and in the world dedicated to the complex study of the past and present of the region through the prism of history, archeology, ethnography, culture, politics and economics, and to project on this basis the future of the Russian Far East and adjacent areas of China, Japan and Korea. Structurally, it is a part of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and it cooperates with all agencies and individuals in Russia and abroad that are interested in the study of this region. The Universal Peace Federation, the non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the UN, represents a global alliance of organizations and people of good will committed to the cause of world peace; members of the organization live and work for the common good and prosperity.

Opening the first session of the conference, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of Primorsky Krai Viktor Gorchakov urged participants to work for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, which is the foundation of security and cooperation in the Northeast Asia. Dr. Victor Larin, chairman of the Public Chamber of Primorye and director of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples in the Far East,, delivered the keynote address. He analyzed the situation after the Crimea and its influence on creation of "a new security architecture" in Asia as well as the future of the Korean Peninsula. Dr. Larin pointed out that "China and Russia are working together to create the basis for a new regional security system. This vision of security tends to downplay the importance of regional military alliances, the main source of US influence in Asia. And yet, according to the Communiqué of the Shanghai Summit in 2014, the six-party talks are the sole pragmatic and effective solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.... All parties must do more for the sake of peace and stability in the region, for resumption of the six-party talks and for the establishment of lasting peace on the peninsula. Peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, nuclear disarmament and resolving problems through dialogue and negotiations – all these issues are included in the sphere of interests of all the parties."

In his report, Chairman of UPF-Eurasia Chong Jin Hwa said: "On the intergovernmental level, it is extremely important for the heads of the main stakeholders in the region to continue their attempts to reduce tensions and reach a peace agreement. For this reason, we support the concept of creating an association of countries in the Northeast Asia, similar to other regional intergovernmental organizations such as the European Union, Association of the South East Asia Nations, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the African Union, as well as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation."

Chung Tae Ik, chairman of the Korean Council for International Affairs and former Ambassador in Moscow, pointed out structural changes of international policy in the Northeast Asia and in Korean diplomacy. He said, "President Park intends to keep a balanced approach in dealing with the four powers and, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korea-US alliance, strengthen a comprehensive strategic alliance with the United States in the XXI century, while promoting ‘strategic partnership’ with China. As for Japan, the new government will make efforts to establish mutually beneficial long-standing relations and settle territorial and historical disputes. It is also emphasized that Korea will make efforts to involve Russia in the expansion of economic cooperation and resolution of the North Korean situation."

In his report, Yoshinori Ono, former defense minister of Japan, analyzed interpersonal communication as a means for creating ways to peace. Comparing international and interpersonal relationships, Mr. Ono pointed out that in its relations with North Korea, China plays the role of a "strict brother," South Korea "a good brother," Japan "a polite policeman," the USA "a strict policeman," and Russia - "a fair judge."

Dr. Thomas Walsh, president of UPF International, discussing the approaches to dialogue, stressed that "the construction of an international highway connecting the two Koreas, and a tunnel between Japan and Korea was a part of the vision of the UPF founder, Dr. Sun Myung Moon. This was to be the beginning of the worldwide project for building international highway and railways network and tunnels, including one across the Bering Strait. Trade and commerce, despite criticism against them for being based on "the darkest of sciences," greed, self-interest and inequality, provide great opportunities for peacemaking. In the history of European integration, guided by the ideals of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, the emergence of the European Community based on coal mining was an essential first step."

Dr. Alexander Z. Zhebin, director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of the Far East, the Russian Academy of Sciences, analyzed the efforts of Russia towards peace and harmony in Korea. According to him, "the present course of Russia concerning the Korean Peninsula is characterized by the virtual disappearance of the ideological factor and an equally marked rise of pragmatism in developing approaches to assessing and solving problems arising in the peninsula. Currently, Moscow is seeking to develop relations of mutually beneficial cooperation with both Korean states, desiring to promote peace and stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia in general. However, Moscow consistently supports the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and is against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region.”

Ge Zhili, member of the Advisory Board of the Committee for Industrial Reform and Business Development of the Chinese Society for Economic Reforms of China, put forward a number of proposals to strengthen regional security in Northeast Asia through creating a zone of international economic cooperation and free trade in Tumangan [the northeastern point of North Korea, close to the borders of China and Russia]. He proposed combining the Chinese Development Zone, Hunchun and Tumen, Russian Hasan, and the North Korean Rason zone to create a single zone of international economic cooperation and free trade on the Tumangan River. He proposes to create a separate duty-free area, commercial and industrial areas, and a logistics center. This Cooperation and Development Zone would be under trilateral control, and function within the duty-free trade and free movement. It would be an international special economic zone.

Dr. Valery Y. Mishin, head of the Center for Security Problems at the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples in the Far East, analyzed the prospects for development of the situation in the North Korea on the basis of current estimates. Drawing conclusions, he suggested that "the situation on the peninsula has already gone beyond the narrow national problem; it maintains hourly tension not only regional actors but also the world community. The solution to the Korean problem is entirely dependent on relationships between North and South Korea and the positive political will of the leaders of these states. Other regional partners need to have patience and tact while focusing their efforts on North Korea in terms of drawing it out of isolation, involving it in the integration process and, of course, non-violent rejection of its nuclear blackmail."

John Yuen Ro, former president of the Seoul newspaper Segye Ilbo, shared about the attitude of Koreans to the unification of the peninsula. He proposed to convene another conference on the dialogue between the two Koreas, in Pyongyang. He also stressed that the peoples of the two Koreas wholeheartedly seek to unite.

Jun Isomura, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in the US, offered a general vision of Northeast Asia future. The paramount picture includes creation of a Northeast Economic Zone of mutually beneficial exchange including Russia, Mongolia, China, North and South Korea, Japan, USA and Taiwan. The Northeast Economic Zone would be a region of free and safe trade; the current lack of exchange rates would be replaced with a system of fixed rates with general rules. It would also include a common power supply system. According to Yoon Isomura, it is possible develop such a power system that would include Russia, North and South Korea, Japan and China.

Dr. Chuang Chzhanzhong from Shanghai, Deputy Director of the International Center of the Chinese Committee for Energy, analyzed the six-party talks, trilateral negotiations and establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons. His point of view is: "No matter what, the six-party talks still represent an effective method to solve this difficult problem, as it is virtually the only platform for negotiations that is acceptable to all parties. The current political climate does not allow bilateral dialogue at the highest level between the US and North Korea or between South Korea and North Korea on the issues of nuclear disarmament. The actual function of the six-party talks is to provide a platform for bilateral negotiations under the guise of a multilateral mechanism. The problem is that the Republic of Korea, the DPRK and the US lie on the same bed, figuratively speaking, but dream about different things. Each party pursues its own ambitions."

Nikolai Fokin, professor at the Far Eastern Federal University, considers the Korean presence in the economy of the Russian Far East as a factor of regional stability. He says that "the quality of Korean human potential is evidenced by two facts. First, according to some Internet resources, the Soviet Koreans in the USSR gained the highest recognition in the number of Heroes of Socialist Labor, with a score of 1000. The second fact concerns the level of Koryo-Saram education. The number of Soviet Koreans with higher education per 1,000 is inferior only to that of Jews. These facts show the high quality of Korean human potential and possibility of its better use in the economic life of the Russian Far East."

Olga Maltseva, assistant professor of journalism and publishing business at the School of Humanities, shared the results of her observation of the DPRK in the light of Kim Jong-un's innovations. She argued that "the DPRK leader returns repeatedly to the idea of a civilized state. In a number of articles Kim Jong-un explains the term ‘civilized state’ as having 1) political power with unanimous rallying around the leader; 2) military power with a strong nuclear shield; 3) economic power with self-reliance; and 4) spiritual power with high-level culture." Olga Maltseva showed the participants of the conference a large number of photos made by herself in the DPRK that demonstrate positive shifts in the country.

Peter Y. Samojlenko, assistant professor in advertising and public relations at the Far East Federal University School of Humanities, analyzed the political process on the Korean Peninsula and the role of the media in promoting cooperation in North-East Asia. According to his analysis, taking into account tensions in Northeast Asia foreign policy and the possibility of continuing military exercises on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity, the importance of the media in these processes needs emphasis. The media shape society's attitude towards current events, including those of the foreign policy, and determine the "anxiety level" of the population about what is happening. The degree of social tension in Northeast Asia will depend to a large extent on the method of supplying information about current events and their implications.

The status and prospects for development of inter-Korean dialogue was addressed by Dr. Igor A. Tolstokulakov, a professor at the Far Eastern Federal University and head of the Center for International Relations at the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples in the Far East. He said: "The inter-Korean space again becomes a major threat to peace and stability in the Northeast Asia. The beginning of 2014 gives some hope for slackening the tension and confrontation between the Republic of Korea and North Korea, but we have no confidence in the sequential behavior of the leaders of the two Koreas. Inter-Korean relations are developing in such a way that one crisis in bilateral relations is replaced by a temporary relaxation period, which is followed by more aggravation. The regional community is interested in easing the inter-Korean confrontation, but the actual mechanisms for this process is yet to be found; currently the six-party talks are not functioning as an alternative or a supplement to bilateral contacts and look hopeless."

A political scientist and expert in the field of media, Viktor A. Burlakov, head of the Department of Journalism and Publishing Business at the School of Humanities, Far East Federal University, considers the Great Tumangan Initiative as an economic platform for inter-Korean dialogue. According to Victor Burlakov, although during the initial phase of the "Tumangan" project in the 1990s Russia felt compelled to largely dissociate itself from such projects, the current state of the country allows for a more flexible policy on the issue of regional cooperation. A number of power generation projects (commissioning the Bureiskaya hydroelectric power plant), mining projects (Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2) and infrastructure development (construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline) have greatly increased the economic potential of the Far East.

Dr. Yoshihiro Yamazaki, senior researcher at the Institute of Peace Studies in Japan, shared his experience of participation in the Middle East Peace Initiative and applied its principles to North-East Asia. Methods of "heart diplomacy," as he allegorically described them, are often more effective than traditional diplomacy. Establishing "heart-to-heart" contacts ensures peaceful progress in the Middle East, thanks to the efforts of non-governmental organizations. He proposed using a similar approach in establishing peace between the two Koreas. Bridges of peace and cultural exchanges are likely to succeed, because even during the Cold War people desired to be together.

Tatyana Kim, director of the Korean Cultural and Educational Center Artyom, suggested ways to integrate the Korean Peninsula through culture and tourism. She believes that it is the most effective first step toward rapprochement between the two countries. North Korea is a unique state. The impressions gained from visiting it, said Tatiana Kim, are incomparable. For many people born in the USSR, a trip to North Korea we be like traveling back in time.

Dr. Vladimir E. Petrovsky from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies summed up the conference. He reflected on the possibility of making inter-Korean dialogue irreversible. Finding a general endorsement of the conference participants, he emphasized that the end of North Korea's isolation and its socioeconomic growth and transformation into a full-fledged member of the international community would all benefit Russia, and not only Russia. Expectations of an imminent collapse of the existing system in North Korea are not justified, since it has repeatedly proved its considerable margin of safety. A relatively secure and confident DPRK is a much more reliable partner for negotiations on any issue than a country that is cornered under the burden of sanctions.

This conference took place in the framework of the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative and the series of conferences on peace and security in Northeast Asia held in Washington, Tokyo, Seoul and Moscow. The Northeast Asia Peace Initiative is based on the following principles. Dialogue is a tool for peace and development providing a basis for mutual respect, trust and cooperation. Despite existence of different points of view or disagreement between peoples and governments of the region, there are common values, common interests and common aspirations, which should be explored and supported. Local organizations, or NGOs, can play an invaluable role in addition to the work of governments through official diplomatic channels. Economic and trade cooperation is an important component of a comprehensive peace agenda. People-to-people diplomacy involving ordinary citizens, youth, women leaders, etc., promotes mutual understanding, cooperation and prosperity.

The conference showed that, although the six-party talks about peace on the Korean Peninsula have stalled for more than five years, non-governmental organizations and experts consider this type of negotiations to be the most effective. These de-facto non-party talks on May 30, 2014 in Vladivostok give new hope for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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