Weigh Anchor for the ‘Civilian Six-Party Talks’ in Beijing

 

                                                Gyung-Lan Jung (Chairperson, Policy Committee, Women Making Peace)

 


From 29th to 30th on March in 2011, there was a Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) Northeast Asian regional meeting in Beijing, China. 


Representatives from 10 cities, such as Seoul, Pyongyang, Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Vladivostok, and Ulaanbaatar, got together and discussed ways to prevent armed conflicts and build peace in Northeast Asia.  


Under the circumstance where the inter-Korean relations aggravated and the tension was high in Northeast Asia, civil society proactively engaged in the resumption of dialogue to move beyond the conflicts among governments.


The highlight of this event was the participation of a delegation from Pyongyang. That was possible largely due to the efforts made by Japanese Peace organization Peace Boat.


Back in October 2003, a conference was held in Mindanao, Philippines, as part of the effort to establish an East Asian regional network of GPPAC. It was a response to then-Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan’s call for the active participation of civil society in the prevention of armed conflicts around the world.


At the conference, I met President of Peace Boat Tatsuya Yoshioka for the first time. A man with incredible drive, Yoshioka strongly argued that Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia should create a separate regional committee of GPPAC because the situations were very different. I also agreed with his point so the separate entity was established for GPPAC Northeast Asia.


As GPPAC Korea was created in 2004 and Japan’s Peace Boat visited each country of Northeast Asia, GPPAC Northeast became materialized. The unique characteristic of GPPAC Northeast Asia was that it is not a country-based but city-based network. 


Considering the special political relations among China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and also between North and South Korea, Peace Boat suggested GPPAC Northeast Asia should be a city-based framework to express and collect various ideas. What an excellent idea!  China pursued ‘the One-China-Policy’ while Taiwan sought to make its own voice in the international community and Hong Kong had its own independent experience. In addition, the two Koreas were in confrontation with each other. Given all of the complexities, a city-based network was launched.


In February 2005, Tokyo, a GPPAC Northeast Asia regional meeting was held, participated by representatives from 9 cities without a delegation from Pyongyang. Since then, almost every year a regional meeting has been held and Peace Boat, GPPAC regional secretariat, tried in vain to persuade Pyongyang to attend. However, Pyongyang finally responded this time to Peace Boat’s persistent effort. As Pyongyang participated, there is a high possibility that the civilian Six-Party-Talks, which many people had been longing for, will be held.


Peace Boat’s devoted activities


It was impressive to see how devoted Peace Boat was to this meeting, even in an emergency situation. Peace Boat was extremely busy due to their relief efforts in response to Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, which happened a day prior to the meeting.


There was a concern that Peace Boat would not be able to organize a GPPAC Northeast Asia meeting when they launched an emergency relief work for the survivors of the natural and nuclear disasters in Japan. Despite all the circumstances, Peace Boat proceeded the GPPAC event in Beijing and showed its strong organizational power and devotion by handling domestic and international needs so well at the same time.


It was heart-rending to see Japanese participants because they had long opposed to nuclear weapons and energy, and further called for the prevention of nuclear disasters for decades, but only faced this cruel reality.


Although the Japanese made tremendous efforts to prevent nuclear threats for a long time, as they remembered the human suffering from the atomic bombs in 1945, they became victims of nuclear power again. Not only nuclear weapons but also nuclear power plants are appearing as a pressing issue.


The issue of nuclear power plant is not only limited to Japan but also applicable to South Korea, China, Taiwan and North Korea. It is critical to develop a long-term solution to the energy issue in Northeast Asia.


What’s sincerity?


Yoshioka mentioned that he decided to start Peace Boat after he learned in his college years of Japan’s atrocities during the Pacific War such as a Comfort Women issue.


During the GPPAC meeting, one of the Japanese participants expressed regret that a conference over the territorial conflicts could be held any country in Northeast Asia except Japan, because Japan provided the root cause of the conflicts. He apologized for this to other participants on the spot. 


I found sincerity in the Japanese who repent of their ancestor’s sin, recognize the pains that nuclear survivors would have felt, and make efforts with patience to build peaceful relations despite regional/inter-country distrust which stem from the past affairs and the Cold War.


Peace Boat is action-oriented, open-minded and responds quickly where they are needed.


Peace Boat reminds me of an old Chinese allegory. When an old man in town tries to move a mountain which blocks his house, others call him an idiot. But, he patiently dugs the mountain little by little every day and eventually succeeds. His patient and hopeful mind makes it all possible. 


North Korea’s participation in GPPAC Northeast Asia Network showed that the strong will and patience are our hope.


What kind of sincerity do we expect in the inter-Korean relationship? I would answer that instead of blaming one side for not being sincere and abandon dialogue, we should patiently try to realize peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and denuclearization based on the belief that reconciliation is possible between two Koreas.


 The GPPAC Northeast Asia is at the new starting point. All the concerned parties to a conflict gathered at the civilian level. Now we should listen to each other and proactively engage. I expect a great role of civil organizations to move beyond the prevention of armed conflicts and contribute to building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and further in Northeast Asia.

 

 

This articile was traslated by Narae Lee, International Coordinator, Peace Boat US

 

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