By S. Enkhtsetseg, For The Mongolian Observer
The second Meeting of the “Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia was held in Ulaanbaatar in late June this year. The main objectives of the workshop were to review critical issues identified by the previous workshop and discuss current topics in order to enhance mutual understanding of pressing regional security issues in Northeast Asia.
The workshop also analyzed the recent developments in the US nuclear policy and its implications for Northeast Asia (NEA), the UN talks on a total ban on nuclear weapons and its impact, issues of establishing a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in NEA and some other pressing regional issues.
The meeting heard presentations of experts from the United States, Russia, China, Australia, Japan, Mongolia and South Korea.
A press conference was held in connection with the panel’s meeting. Journalists raised questions related to the panel’s activities as well as to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK or North Korea) recent nuclear and missile tests and its implications.
During the press conference the Director and professor at the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA), Nagasaki University, Suzuki Tatsujiro underlined the importance of the panel’s meeting in exchanging information, views and thoughts by independent experts in addressing the pressing NEA security issues.
Morton H. Halperin, Senior Advisor at the Open Society Foundations, USA was asked to clarify the US position on establishing a Northeast nuclear weapon free zone. He said that the US has not addressed the issue of a nuclear- weapon-free zone in NEA, but the US Government has expressed in general support for a zone.
Michael Hamel-Green stated that “there was no miracle to solve the North Korean nuclear weapons problem”. In his and many of the participants’ view, “the only way to resolve the problem is through dialogue and negotiations”. He highlighted the need to find a more complex solution of negotiation.
The participants of the press conference agreed to the importance of promoting further the idea of establishing a NEA nuclear-weapon-free zone. They pointed out that Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status provided an example of successfully addressing nuclear security issues through political and diplomatic means.
The meeting released a Co-Chairs’ policy statement that summarized the discussion for future reference. According to the statement, “… recent developments highlight the urgent need to pursue diplomatic initiatives to ease tensions and find a negotiated solution to the issues posed by North Korean missile and nuclear testing and the heightened military confrontation of North Korea on the part of the US and other regional states.”
Statement’s recommendations included the following:
• We urge that all sides in the current tensions and developments on the Korean Peninsula show the utmost care and restraint in avoiding actions that could be misperceived and lead to war by miscalculation, and seek an early resumption of either the Six-Party Talks convened by China or bilateral discussions and negotiations.
• We further urge that discussions should not simply be confined to DPRK nuclear and missile programs but should be extended to cover a wider agenda of a peace treaty to end the Korean War, establishment of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone treaty with security assurances to a no-nuclear DPRK, ROK and Japan, and the establishment of a regional security forum.
• We welcome some very recent indications of preparedness for dialogue by senior officials or leaders in the US, China, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea`s President Moon Jae-in, and call upon them, as a matter of extreme urgency, to commence such dialogue immediately.
• We urge a more in-depth examination and consideration of all aspects and consequences of the current THAAD ballistic missile defense system in South Korea, particularly in relation to its wider impacts on the strategic environment in Northeast Asia.
The workshop was conducted under the Chatham House Rule.
The Panel meeting was organized by the Nagasaki University`s Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA) and Mongolia’s Blue Banner NGO. It has generated a number of proposals, including a more comprehensive approach to addressing the issues of strengthening peace and security in Northeast Asia. This would involve not only negotiation of nuclear weapon free zone treaty but also conclusion of a peace treaty ending the Korean War, providing security assurances to the DPRK, ROK and Japan and establishing a Northeast Asia regional security forum and Northeast Asia Energy Cooperation Committee. Blue Banner NGO proposed to look into the possibility of accepting DPRK as a de facto nuclear weapon state provided that the latter agrees to a suspension-for-suspension formula and return to the Six Party Talks to reaching a peaceful resolution to its nuclear weapons program.
As a Mongolian journalist, I was inspired by the Meeting’s serious atmosphere and the quality of presentations. I walked away with a renewed sense that peace and security in North Asia is one of the topics that I would seek to further explore.