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U.S. stance on N. Korea questioned

July 17, 2006

The U.S. should get involved more in the problems of North Korea's nuclear development, according to a panel discussion on the present and future issues of East Asia.

The panelists were: Thomas Hubbard, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea; Wang Yi, Chinese ambassador to Japan; Domingo Siazon, Philippine ambassador to Japan; and Hitoshi Tanaka, senior fellow of the Japan Center for International Exchange. Tanaka moderated the discussion.

Tanaka: East Asia has huge potential but also possesses big problems.

Hubbard: Asia plays an enormous role in the global economy. This dynamic economic growth has brought American and East Asian destinies together. Having contributed greatly to security and economic development in this region for the past 50 years, Americans take pride in the stability and prosperity we see in this part of the world.

Asian countries have debated whether China's dramatic economic rise is an opportunity or a threat. Greater transparency regarding military expenditures will give all of us a greater confidence in the positive benefits of China's rise. This is the first time the world has ever seen a strong China and a strong Japan. East Asia's future will depend heavily on how relations between these two regional giants evolve.

Wang: China's stance is to have friendly cooperation with all of its neighbors. We will solve any problem or friction through talks and consultations. As for the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, we are playing our role in the six-party talks. We should cooperate with one another to nurture a new Asian principle that is open to the outside.

Siazon: The non-event that worries all is the utter vacuum created by the suspension of highest-level dialogue among the region's biggest states (Japan and China). ASEAN is the core of East Asia, and upon its norms and inventions - however imperfect - can the layers for East Asia be built.

Maybe, it is time for our region to explore more formal regional security arrangements. An East Asian Energy Community can facilitate joint exploration of oil and natural gas, create common strategic reserves, cooperate in energy conservation. Another forum of cooperation is the creation of an Asia Atomic Energy Organization, which can also include Russia, North Korea and Taiwan. It will institute a verification system based on mutual inspections by inspectors from member countries. (Also) the creation of an Asian Monetary Fund should be pursued.

Tanaka: We should not discuss Japan-China relations only from the standpoint of one issue - Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. What is needed now is to have an agreement on future relations between the two countries. A Japanese prime minister should think about the Yasukuni issue as personal matter in the context of the agreement.

North Korea is to blame for the stagnation of the six-party talks. We need to negotiate to make comprehensive solutions. A serious approach by the U.S. is necessary for that to happen.

Hubbard: I agree personally about the need for the U.S. to address the North Korean issue more seriously. The U.S. should be more willing to engage bilaterally with North Korea to make the six-party talks successful. There is a lot of skepticism in the U.S. that the North Korean regime will ever give up the nuclear weapons.

Wang: To put an end to the past, China and Japan should have consent to the fundamental recognition. I don't want to see China-Japan relations worsen any more. Japan should judge what will be of real national benefit.

I have two targets about the Korean Peninsula problem. First, nuclear capability is absolutely not necessary on the peninsula. Second, we have to keep peace there. It is important to establish mutual trust among the six nations - especially between the U.S. and North Korea.

Siazon: More than 1.1 million Filipinos died during World War II. We signed our peace treaty with Japan. We have looked forward, very rarely backwards. We are hoping this would be possible between China and Japan and between South Korea and Japan. It will take a lot of effort and good will among the three countries.

(The Nikkei Weekly July 17 Issue)

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.