Europe and the Middle East—The International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAP) held an online conference as part of ILC2021.
“Toward a Northeast Asian Economic Community? What Can Be Learned from the History of the European Union?” was the theme of the IAAP session, which was held on May 1, 2021.
Esteemed guests offered their insights and reflections on the dynamics of the North/South Korea tension. They also discussed the complex network of interactions of Northeast Asia and the United States.
Chantal Chételat Komagata, the UPF coordinator for Europe, welcomed the participants and introduced the session.
The moderator of the session was Dr. Niklas Swanström from Sweden, the executive director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy. Since 2004, he has traveled frequently to the Korean Peninsula as a part of the institute’s collaboration with both Koreas.
Dr. Swanström said: “I do think there are some important lessons that can be learned from the European experience, but Northeast Asia is a unique region and it’s important to realize that as well. It is also important to understand that nothing happens in a regional bubble. International factors play big roles and are always present, so cooperation is necessary.”
Hon. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, a former president of the parliament of Luxembourg and member of the European Parliament, explained the history of European economics and how it relates to the Asian situation and especially to the two Koreas.
She emphasized that the European Union is in continuous development and transformation:
“The weakness of the European Union is that we cannot speak so much with one voice for external policies. The founding principle of the European Union is democracy, and that is the first thing to be worked on,” she said.
“Culture is about identity. How can we establish common rules for the preservation of each citizen’s dignity, if we don’t respect their identity?” she said.
Hon. Hennicot-Schoepges recommended a book by US political scientist Francis Fukuyama titled Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. “He is describing what should be done in the EU as well as in all other countries,” she said.
She emphasized the influence that people can have on the economy and politics.
“The world is changing very much after this pandemic. It has become more global. We need to understand that it’s all about compromise and links between people, and the will to get things done,” she said.
Mr. Jun Isomura, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, spoke about the political dynamics of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), and how that relates to the bigger picture of Northeast Asia and the United States.
“The Korean Peninsula is still in a time of war, technically, by the Armistice Agreement in 1953,” he said.
“Under the armistice condition, the US is still the enemy of the DPRK today; the UN as well. Therefore the DPRK believes it has no obligation to follow the UN sanctions. An agreement of an end of the war between the DPRK and the US, including UN Command, will not mean an end of war between the DPRK and the ROK. A time of the war will continue, theoretically. With an end-of-war agreement between the DPRK and the US, the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] and other contracts in the Armistice Agreement will be ended. It means there will be no official border between the DPRK and the ROK, and it will be able to restart a war, and the US will be unable to support the ROK because of the end-of-war agreement.
“Before talking about unification, South Korea should solve this condition.
“West Germany had done a wide variety of preparations toward East Germany and West Europe and East Europe, too. Similarly, the unification of the DPRK and ROK should be going through the same process of preparation.”
Mr. Isomura also spoke about the Chinese position in regard to the Korean situation. China needs to expand in order to survive, he said, but that might eventually lead to its downfall.
“It’s hard to imagine the future of China. The studies in the Pentagon predicted China will fall in 2030 and divide into smaller regions. The expansion of China is scary, but also its collapse and consequences are dreadful.”
About the presence of the US in Asia, Mr. Isomura expressed the following:
What will happen with the end of Pax Americana?
Without the United States’ presence in Northeast Asia, the regional condition will simply revert to the same as before World War II.
Without US forces in the ROK, the DPRK will seek to unify the Korean Peninsula.
The sovereignty of Taiwan will disappear.
Japan might choose to be a nuclear nation.
The third speaker was Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky, the chief researcher at the Russia-China Center of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He compared the European situation after World War II and the current situation of North and South Korea.
“For the creation of an economic community in Northeast Asia, not only the experience of Europe but also the experience of creating integration entities in East Asia and Eurasia may turn out to be important.
“European integration was built on the foundation of reconciliation and accord reached between the countries of Europe following the Second World War. Economic cooperation between European countries has become possible on the basis of the understanding that Europeans will never again fight each other. That was the fundamental element that allowed the European economy to develop.
“If we look at Northeast Asia, the situation seems to indicate that the Cold War has not ended there. There are still territorial disputes in many borders, and there is a lack of mutual trust between the nations. This is the factor that is preventing the building of a community. I hope UPF will contribute to promoting a culture of peace and reconciliation in this direction.”
Dr. Petrovsky then directed his speech to a look on the economic side:
“We have to consider the integration processes that are already in place.
“In Eurasia, the process of conjugation of the Eurasian economic integration is taking place within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is one of the most iconic and innovative manifestations of modern trends in economic regionalization and globalization. If implemented, it will radically change the geo-economic and geopolitical situation in Eurasia.”
When it comes to economic relations in Asia, Dr. Petrovsky said he strongly believes that at the moment it is not advisable to build connections that either are against China or don’t include it.
A question-and-answer session followed. Questions from the audience were presented to the panelists by Mélanie Komagata, a post-graduate student in East Asian studies at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
Hon. Hennicot-Schoepges was asked: “You mentioned that Europe is far from having achieved the desired unity. How can Europe become more united by contributing to the Korean situation?”
She replied: “More than with politics, the first step is to let citizens meet and families reunite. It all starts from the people.
“Was the unification of Germany desired by people or pushed by politics? Is it the same in Korea?
“There were 20 years of cooperation on the economic side before the reunification of Germany. Economy is moving things more easily than politics.”
Mr. Isomura was asked, “How can the European Union contribute to a Northeast Asia economic zone?”
He replied: “It will take another decade to establish such an organization and cooperation. It is important to allow space for the parties involved to start a real discussion about this topic.”
Dr. Petrovsky was asked, “Is it better to have a multi-polar world with wars or a one-polar world with no wars?”
He responded: “A one-polar world is not a very stable construction. In my opinion, a multi-polar world is more efficient and safer.”
He also was asked, “Do other countries have a choice when China is bulldozing across?”
His response was: “Russia and China are having discussions for agreements. It’s to the benefit of Russia to join the belt, because two-thirds of Russia is desert, so it needs development.”
Then a general question was presented to all the panelists: “Will connecting South Korea to the North Korean economy make things better?”
Mr. Isomura: “Talking with North Koreans directly is important; do not assume their viewpoint.”
Dr. Petrovsky: “There is a possibility of building economy between the two Koreas, but some political steps have to be taken first in the United Nations—for example, sanctions have to be lifted.”
Dr. Swanström: “I don’t think the DPRK is ready yet for this step.”
On the topic of the denuclearization of North Korea:
Mr. Isomura : “It will take decades. There are many technical and political steps to be taken. There has to be a roadmap of future plans between North Korea and United States; it won’t happen all of a sudden.”
Dr. Petrovsky: “We need a roadmap for denuclearization. The United States wants North Korea to be denuclearized immediately, but North Korea wants to have a gradual, step-by-step process.”
On the topic of merging the two Koreas:
Hon. Hennicot-Schoepges: “In Germany the people were opening the borders, not politicians. The people are the ones who can have the politics moved.”
Dr. Swanström: “Germany is still dealing with the economic consequences of the reunification after the Second World War. The situation in Korea might be similar.”
Then each of the panelists was invited to give closing remarks.
Hon. Hennicot-Schoepges: “The European experience is a lesson to learn from, but we are still learning. The first step is to reunite families and let people cross the borders. That might help to unblock the political situation.
“If people don’t move, nothing will happen. In Germany, people were doing peaceful demonstrations to show their desire. It took time, but it started from the people.”
Mr. Isomura: “North Korea has no intention of starting a war with the United States. Nuclear missiles are a tool with which to negotiate. They want to develop relations. They want to be recognized as a nation. The United States has to understand this.”
Dr. Petrovsky: “To build the economy, the first step should be to develop a set of principles and a common declaration toward a Northeast Asian economic community. The key principle should be that the legacy of the Second World War and the Korean War should not be an obstacle to move further.”
Then Yoshihiro Yamazaki, the liaison director for Europe and the Middle East of the Institute for Peace Policies, offered closing remarks.
“This particular session has been hosted by the International Association of Academicians for Peace in Europe and the Middle East—in short, IAAP. As its name suggests, IAAP aspires to encourage and engage academics in contributing to peacemaking causes and efforts with their rational capacity, science and technology.
“As Mr. Isomura pointed out, Northeast Asia involves the three largest economies (USA, China and Japan) as well as the three most militarized nations (USA, China and Russia). In fact, these four powers have been variably responsible for the creation of two independent Koreas, their devastating war and subsequent division.
“If the Koreas’ questions could find solutions, they would surely help many nations and peoples under distress around the world to untangle their own.
“For that matter, UPF has been trying to elaborate three guiding principles toward a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious community of nations. They are: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universal Values. Actually, these have been explicitly advocated by UPF’s founders, Dr. Sun Myung Moon and Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, since the 1960s.
“Peace is an ideal, and its implementation requires enormous volumes of exploring and sharing of wisdom, knowledge and rationale to develop workable policies and know-how. You are sincerely invited to this task of the century! Once again, thank you for your participation today.”