ASEAN should become a member of six-party talks: Scholar
Break the logjam: Dewi Fortuna Anwar, the Vice President's deputy secretary for political affairs (second left) speaks at a forum on the Korean Peninsula on Monday. Also present were Kim Soo-kwon from the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry (center), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences' Cornelis PF Luhulima (left), the University of Indonesia's Edy Prasetyono (second right) and South Korean Embassy's Park Young-sik. (JP/Veramalla Anjaiah) In order to break the logjam of North Korea’s long-term nuclear issue, ASEAN must make a new move by joining the six-party talks, an Indonesian expert says.
“We have to include ASEAN in ongoing negotiations and turn them into seven-party talks,” Prof. Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a social scientist and the Vice President’s deputy secretary for political affairs, said at a seminar titled “Peace and Security on the Korean Peninsula: Challenges and Ways Forward” at the Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta on Monday.
“ASEAN is the most credible and respectable regional organization and it could become a good mediator,” Dewi said.
As a nearby neighbor, the fast-growing 10-member association would be acceptable not only to
both Koreas but also to other nations, Dewi said.
“It deserves to be included in the six-party talks,” Dewi said.
Despite its economic might and US military support, South Korea has been unable to respond to North Korean aggression, including most recently its sinking of the Cheonan warship and an attack on Yeonpyeong Island.
Kim Soo-kwon, the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry’s director-general for the Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau, underscored the seriousness of the problem.
“More than 40 percent of our population live in Seoul and nearby areas that are close to the North Korean border. Most of our industries are located in this area. If there is a war between the two Koreas, the most affected regions are Seoul and its nearby areas,” Kim told The
Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the seminar.
“North Korea knows this. That’s why it is committing crimes against our country,” he added.
Others, including Indonesia’s Permanent Representative to ASEAN, Ngurah Swajaya, and former Indonesian ambassador to South Korea Jakob Tobing told the forum that ASEAN previously facilitated direct negotiations between the Koreas under the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the only regional security forum in Asia, and on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings.
North and South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia launched the six-party talks in 2003, after Pyongyang quit the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) to end North Korea’s nuclear program through negotiations.
The talks were bedeviled by diplomatic standoffs between North Korea and several US administrations.
“In fact, the US has not been consistent in its policies on North Korea due to its national interests,” Dewi said.
Another obstacle in finding a resolution to the Korean nuclear problem is China, a strong supporter of Pyongyang.
Beijing has not been comfortable with the South Korea-US alliance in its backyard. Critics have said that China has been using North Korea to achieve its regional foreign policy goals.
The six-party talks stalled after nine years in April 2009, when North Korea quit the peace process.
So far there has been no light at the end the tunnel. Perhaps, ASEAN and its largest member nation, Indonesia, under a seven-party set up, may bring some fresh blood to the parleys and play a positive role in bringing peace to the divided Korean Peninsula.