Time ripe for promoting peace in Northeast Asia

The dynamics of Northeast Asia are shifting.

The Korean Peninsula is seeing positive signs over denuclearization, with both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea making all the right gestures. Tension has been eased and motivation for regional cooperation boosted. There cannot be a better time for promoting a regional political and security agenda, as well as economic and cultural exchange, for a peaceful and prosperous Northeast Asia.

These are the best times for Northeast Asia since the 19th century. Countries in the region were colonized by the Western powers, and later by their Asian neighbor, Japan. After World War II, Northeast Asia was caught in the Cold War and divided into two camps.

It has remained the only region still plagued by the Cold War mentality, because the United States has refused to make peace with the DPRK. To defend itself from the US, the DPRK resorted to developing nuclear weapons.

In 2018, the DPRK declared a major shift in its national policy, from the previous parallel development of nuclear weapons and economy to the current focus on the economy. This move has been viewed as an initiative to halt nuclear development and extend an olive branch to the other nations.

The DPRK’s concession on its nuclear development has led to breakthroughs in its foreign relations. Two summits between US President Donald Trump and DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un have been held, as well as three meetings between the DPRK and ROK leaders.

China-Japan relations, which had hit rock bottom following differences over the Diaoyu Islands, are back on track. The ROK and China have started to mend relations that were strained because of US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system in the ROK.

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China-DPRK relations reached a new high. The positive signs in this region and in the bilateral relations have created a favorable atmosphere for regional economic cooperation. Talks on a trilateral China-Japan-ROK free trade agreement have resumed, and Japan has voiced its willingness to engage in the Belt and Road Initiative.

All stakeholders in the region should look at the bigger picture and build a peaceful and prosperous Northeast Asia.

First, all the Northeast Asian countries should reach a consensus on cooperation. All nations should safeguard regional stability and press ahead for greater development for the long-term goal of building a peaceful and prosperous region.

Second, all parties should strengthen cooperation and push for denuclearization with one voice.

Third, the Northeast Asian countries, while handling disputes between each other, should be willing to make some compromises. All nations should learn to meet each other halfway to resolve conflicts, including territorial disputes.

Fourth, the Northeast Asian countries should accelerate development of free trade zones. The future of Northeast Asia hinges on the integration of the nations in the region.

Last, the BRI should be a cohesive and driving force for a close-knit Northeast Asia. The initiative, aligned with the development agendas of individual nations, will spur integration and cement crossborder cooperation in the region.

The author is vice-director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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