(Remarks of former Philippine speaker Jose de Venecia – founding chairman, International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP); co-chairman, International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP); chairman emeritus, Universal Peace Federation (UPF); Special Envoy of the President to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and for Intercultural Dialogue at the UPF World Summit 2019 “Peace, Security and Human Development” Seoul, Republic of Korea; February 7-11, 2019)
The challenge to Asian countries
Excellencies, friends: Our task is to ask ourselves why this is happening and how we can keep peace within our region despite the stiff economic competition our countries face.
We must be aware of all the pitfalls and failings of democracy and free market competition. What ethical standards can we bring in so that we can bring all our entrepreneurial skills but operate fairly and with civility?
Perhaps, the answer is in our distant past when the maritime highways linked our nations to one another and participated in a trade where one country supplied what was needed in another, for which they bartered for what they needed.
My own country the Philippines, located as it is on the margins of islands in Southeast Asia, developed virtually on its own, though it did take part in a long-distance trading system, that encompassed both the Indian Ocean and the China Sea and reached past Madagascar in East Africa to Nagasaki, Japan.
Most practical solution in China Sea crises
Excellencies, friends: As we pointed out much earlier, the raging conflict in the South China Sea, West Philippine Sea to the Filipinos, and East Sea to the Vietnamese, with conflicting sovereignty claims, may be settled by temporarily shelving the issue of sovereignty, as earlier proposed by Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of China’s peaceful rise: revive the Seismic Survey Agreement signed by China, the Philippines, and Vietnam, which we had the priviledge to inititate in 2004; undertake joint oil/gas exploration and joint development with an equitable sharing of production and profits; designate “fishing corridors”; demilitarize the disputed islets through the phased withdrawal of armed garrisons; and convert the zone of conflict into a Zone of Peace, Friendship, Cooperation and Development.
This is perhaps the most realistic, most common-sensical solution to the problem of the Spratlys and Paracels, and which could subsequently be joined by Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, and could also be the solution to the problem between China and Japan in the Senkaku Straits or Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
Easier said than done but this is now the time to consider the practical, principled, common-sensical win-win compromises necessary for the geo-political settlements in the China Sea.
Our own road to the future
Excellencies, friends: We must make our own road to the future. And in this task we should take hope from the writer Lu Hsun, a hero of China’s revolutionary period.
“Hope [says Lu Hsun] cannot be said to exist. Nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with; but when many people pass one way a road is made.”
Here in our meeting in Seoul, we know the journey will be difficult. The journey will be long. But the rewards at the journey’s end will be more than justify every tear, every hurt, every fall.
It is in this spirit that we in the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) join hands with all of you, distinguished delegates from around the world, all advocates of reconciliation and peace – peace in our time, hopefully sooner than later in this century – peace in the Korean Peninsula, peace throughout in our planet Earth.
For we share rebuilding new roads to the future for mankind, for all our peoples.
Two Koreas should adapt to global changes
Excellencies, friends: We must point out that despite the occasional harsh rhetoric on both sides of the 38th Parallel, we believe governments, parliaments, political parties, civil society organizations, and religious groups must encourage and support direct talks between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Indeed, direct talks between North and South will complement these high-level explorations. Perhaps they could even catalyze the long-suspended Six-Party Talks to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Korean Peninsula. Perhaps direct bilateral or multilateral talks could even lead to agreement on a road map to eventual unification. But these talks have not been reopened for a long time now.
We in Asia and the global community most acknowledge and applaud the forthright efforts of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un, consistently supported by the South Korean President Moon Jae-In, which have the potential for a breakthrough, hopefully sooner than later, towards a final peace in the Korean Peninsula.
Today the basic fact is that the distribution of power in the world is fast-changing–particularly in East Asia–and the Korean Peninsula must adapt to these epochal transformations.
Vietnam itself emerged from three difficult successive wars, winning against great powers, and its socialist government adopting a market economy, lifted its people from poverty to become today a rising peaceful economic power. North Korea can be like Vietnam, which is already emerging as a significant state in Southeast Asia.
The great example of course is how the two Germanys finally emerged from Cold War confrontation and totally united under then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, to become today the predominant economic power in Europe.
And China, under the unforgettable leader Deng Xiaoping, opened China to the world, lifted more than 500 million people from poverty and introduced appreciable elements of free enterprise capitalism to China’s socialist economy, which has propelled China to the second largest in the global economy with the potential to become No. 1 within 10-15 years.
In my view, the immediate task of the parliaments and mainstream political parties of the Republic of Korea and the Communist Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) of the North, aided by the parliaments, political parties, civil society, and business leaders of the global community, is to draw up a clear, distinct and workable road map toward unification.