Northeast Asia Regional Meeting 2017
Event Reports

Northeast Asia Regional Meeting 2017

The following article is a summary of the report. To read the full report, please download the file on the left.

On June 21st-23rd, 2017, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network co-hosted the APLN Northeast Regional Meeting with the Mongolia Development Strategy Institute. It was participated by 23 experts – 14 of whom were APLN members. The meeting covered a broad range of topics in five sessions: Key national perspectives of North Korea Nuclear Issues; Maintaining the effectiveness of the NPT; Japan, South Korea and the nuclear umbrella; Regional and global non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives; Weighing the options of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

In the opening session, Sukhbaatar Batbold, former Prime Minister of Mongolia and Chairman of MDSI, highlighted the timeliness of the meeting and relevance of the issues to be considered, given the heightened regional security concerns generated by the nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea. He outlined Mongolia’s responses to its unique strategic situation between two nuclear powers, and the political challenge of dealing with nuclear issues where there is little public understanding.

For the discussion on the topic of key national perspectives of North Korea nuclear issues, introductory remarks on the perspectives of key regional players on the nuclear and missile threats on the Korean Peninsula were made. Ms. Nyamosor Tuya, former Foreign Minister, stated that Mongolia has supported Track 2 and 1.5 meetings with DPRK and could offer its experience in transition from closed society to a more open one enjoying the benefits of international cooperation. Dr. Yongsoo Hwang, Principal Researcher of Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), remarked that the new President Moon Jae-in has committed to reopening dialogue with the North. Commissioner Nobuyasu Abe, Commissioner of Japan Atomic Energy Commission, said that Japan shares US perspectives in many aspects and recognizes that pressure is an important element for setting the environment for engagement. Dr. Chen Dongxiao, President of Shanghai Institute of International Studies, said that China was wary of the issue entering a phase with greater danger and risks. For promoting denuclearization, he said, China is maintaining open links to Pyongyang. Dr. Alexandre Vorontsov, Advisor of Center for Energy and Security Studies, explained that from Russia’s perspective, the situation had cumulated from fundamental trust deficits borne from failure to meet commitments from DPRK, the US, Japan and ROK. Finally, Dr. Morton H. Halperin, Senior Advisor of the Open Society Foundations, commented that President Trump is still shaping his policy towards North Korea, but has agreed he would not resume dialogue while nuclear tests are being continued. The session then moved onto discussion on finding commonalities among the perspectives of six states and tentative solutions. With new administrations in Seoul and Washington, there was hope for new and creative approaches, but concern was raised on their previous poor understanding of North Korea’s intentions and motivations.

A more in-depth discussion followed on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Dr. Peter Hayes, Director of Nautilus Institute, and Ret. Major General Pan Zhenqiang, Senior Advisor to China Reform Forum made introductory comments. There should be a more specific and concrete goal for North Korea’s denuclearization. Methods to bring about that goal, such as incentives and sanctions, should be examined to flesh out more details and to note side effects. On the part of neighboring states, China, the US and Russia need to provide security guarantees to persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. The North and South Korea should be in talks. The absence of any regional architecture or mechanism for addressing Northeast Asian nuclear and security issues, such as the discontinued Six Party Talks, has become a major concern in a region that desperately needs one.

For the discussion on the topic of the NPT and the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty, introductory remarks were made by six participants. Amb. Toshio Sano, former Japanese Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, and Dr. Zhao Tong, Associate of Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, remarked upon the effectiveness of the NPT. Minister Sung-hwan Kim, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, ROK, and Prof. Tatsujiro Suzuki, Director of Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA) at Nagasaki University, made remarks on UN nuclear ban treaty negotiations. Finally, there were two remarks regarding the nuclear umbrella and its implications on ROK by Dr. Sanghyun Lee, Director of Research Planning at the Sejong Institute, and on Japan by Prof. Tatsujiro Suzuki. A discussion then followed regarding measures to maintain the effectiveness of the NPT regime, extended nuclear deterrence and its differences according to states involved, and the ban treaty’s relation with the NPT. There was a further discussion on nuclear weapon states and why some were re-considering deployment of tactical nuclear weapons or resisting progress on No First Use.

Lastly, there was discussion on nuclear weapon free zones and their implications for Northeast Asia. The meeting was primed to discuss about NWFZ – the hosts and speakers were able to provide background on Mongolia’s initiative for Single-State NWFZ. Damdin Tsogtbaatar, MP and Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, State Great Hural of Mongolia, gave a keynote speech on such efforts at the official dinner on June 22nd. Amb. Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, Chairman of Blue Banner Mongolia, also made introductory remarks on the initiative at the session. Finally, Prof. Hiromichi Umebayashi, Special Advisor, Peace Depot Inc., commented on the possibility of a NEA-NWFZ. Also referring to a comprehensive study from RECNA, the meeting concluded that any framework should be broadly based in terms of the issues addressed and the number of countries involved. The APLN would be glad to work with others on this approach to nuclear security issues in Northeast Asia.

Summary reported by Jamie Cho, Program Officer, APLN
Report made by John Tilemann, Director of Research, APLN
Image: Unsplash stock, Adli Wahid.