Low expectations of Seoul summit necessary
Atrilateral summit between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea is due to be held this weekend in Seoul. This will be the first such meeting in three years, as the previous summit between the three countries took place in Beijing in 2012. Originally, the trilateralmeetings took place aside of the Association of SoutheastAsianNations summits. Later, they becamea separate event. Whenthings were better thesummitwasanannual event, but it has been suspended since 2012.
Thanks primarily to the size of their economies, the three countries are not just regional powers, they carry weight in international affairsonthe world stage too. Together the three account for about one-quarter of the gross world productandtheir share is growing. There are somany thingson which the three countries could cooperate to their mutual benefit. There is evenanurgent agenda in the realm of high politics, as they could jointly address such pressing tasks as maintaining stabilityandpeace throughout the regionand ensuring the region’s sustainable development.
However, inthe past such hopeshave soon fallen apart. So will this bean“old normal” or the start of a “new normal”? One of the elements in the “old normal” has been the temptation to find fault with factors external to the region as an excuse for our own failure to organize a regime of cooperation among ourselves. Being incapable of settling our own affairs for and by ourselves reflects badly on us and serves no constructive purpose. Yet there will not be many in the region who entertain high hopes of any great achievements being made at the coming summit meeting. However, the leaders of the three countries should at least be able to take this opportunity to reach an agreement on the basic principles governing the relations among themselves in the future.
The foremost of which will be that they should be able to derive correct inferences from the unhappy past. The sufferings inflicted on the people resulting from a misguided policy of the then leaders of Japan should no longer remain as a problem between the nations. The Japanese people themselves suffered too as a consequence of the militaristic aggression embarked on by their leadership in the first half of the last century.
There should be a correct recognition of those facts followed by proper support for the victims. Following on from this there should be recognition of a shared destiny in the region particularly for the three neighboring countries.
The author is a researcher at the Ministry of Commerce’s International Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute. If any one country fails, this immediately becomes a factor of instability in the region, adversely affecting the other countries too. In this world where the countries are closely related with one another it is the failed states that destabilize entire regions, even the world. It is ultimately to our own benefit that we should be forthcoming with our willingness to be of assistance to our neighbors in need. That may sound unrealistic at present.
The three leadersmay do well to dwell on possibility of inviting the young leader of the Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea to their meetings in the future.
Finally, I hope there will be time for the three leaders to deliberate on their contribution to humanity as a whole. Despite all the problems it has created the state of modernity that originated in theWest has made contributions to the progress of civilization. Nowmay be the time for the three nations in this region to seriously consider what they should and could do to ameliorate the fate of humanity in the days ahead.
The author is a University Distinguished Professor at Hanyang University and former ROK ambassador to Japan.