2016 Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum

The 21st century has been acclaimed as the “Asian Century,” not without grounds. The Asian Development Bank, based on the past success of Asian economies, projects that if Asia continues to follow its recent trajectory, by the mid-century its per capita income could rise six-fold in purchasing power parity terms to reach Europe’s levels today. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product to over fifty percent by 2050, Asia would become the center of the global economy.

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2016 NAPC Forum

Asia’s rise is by no means preordained, however. In this century, we are witnessing a surge of old and new problems compounding the tensions in the region. The underlying historical and territorial issues between regional countries have come to the fore. Challenges such as maritime security, space and cyber security have also emerged. In Northeast Asia, the history question that has long stained and strained relationships between the countries of the region remains unabated. More seriously, North Korea’s continued nuclear tests and provocations are perceived as a common security threat causing instability in the region.

All these add up to trust deficit in the region, or the “Asia Paradox”, even overshadowing economic interdependence and interconnectedness that has progressed since the latter half of the previous century. It means political and security cooperation remains minimal and lags behind the deepening economic interdependence; and there is a mismatch between high and low politics. All these are holding back much broader collaboration on a regional scale. If these challenges are left unaddressed, trust deficit will keep accumulating and eventually lead to a deepening of the traditional security dilemma.

Northeast Asia needs collaborative and collective action in concert on a regional scale. Multilateral dialogue should certainly be a crucial part in the process of regional integration, shaping a peaceful and secure Northeast Asia. Korea’s Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), is intended as a call for such an action in concert.

NAPCI is a future-oriented process to build an order of multilateral cooperation in the region. The Initiative aims at solidifying the practice of multilateral cooperation in non-traditional soft security areas. Following the stocking up of a solid mass of trust, NAPCI will cast a wide net to encompass a broader scope of collaboration, and aim for a higher level of dialogue. Based on accumulated confidence through such multilateral dialogues, it will lead countries of the region to deal with hard security issues at the regional security cooperation mechanism such as a format of mini-CSCE/OSCE. NAPCI is built on the following principles:

  • First, NAPCI is an open, collaborative approach. Participating countries, as co-architects, may take the lead on or participate in discussing agenda items that interest them. This will ensure a sense of joint ownership and boost the solidarity and connectivity among participating countries
  • Second, the Initiative is the search for common denominators in the regional policies of participating states. Northeast Asia is a region where America’s rebalance to the Asia Pacific, China’s neighborhood diplomacy, Japan’s proactive diplomacy and Russia’s new Northeast Asia policy overlap and where South and North Korea should deal with each other. If we identify their commonalities and find the leeway for cooperation, this could be beneficial to all participants.
  • Third, it is building complementary relations with existing regional or sub-regional mechanisms. For example, NAPCI would create a mutually beneficial synergy effect with trilateral cooperation among China, Japan and Korea, the Six Party Talks, the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) and East Asia Summit(EAS). NAPCI will be a companion, not a contender, to the present bilateral and multilateral efforts.
  • Fourth, NAPCI is the process of gradual evolution. The focus would not be on short term results, but on progressing at a speed the stakeholders will find comfortable. There would also be flexibility in the level of cooperation. The amount of trust will be taken into account, and participation will be on a voluntary basis. It would try to garner the political will for high level dialogue, making it, in effect, a bottom-up process that will generate top-down momentum.

Korea was able to achieve meaningful outcomes so far, garnering statements of support for NAPCI from leaders around the world, from President Xi Jinping, President Tusk of the European Council and President Obama. Many diverse regional groups, like ASEAN, the OSCE, NATO and more have expressed their support. Focal Points for NAPCI were designated in all the NAPCI countries except North Korea.

Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum

In this spirit of multilateral dialogue, the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum was launched in 2014 as an intellectual venue, in which leading practitioners and experts from across the world gather together to discuss the most pressing issues for regional cooperation in those soft security areas of nuclear safety, energy security, cyberspace and environment. In the First Forum, participants from across the region and beyond were engaged in intense discussions and brought up specific policy recommendations to facilitate multilateral dialogue and cooperation. Following and built on the inaugural Forum, the Second Forum was also convened in Seoul in October last year to provide further policy recommendations on multilateral cooperation in the fields of nuclear safety, energy security, cyberspace, maritime disaster management and the environment. Parallel, but simultaneously with the Forum, high-level intergovernmental meetings on NAPCI were also held twice. The Third Forum was convened at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. on October 2016. A distinguished group of policymakers, opinion leaders, and experts across the Northeast Asia region have engaged in a conversation to discuss the most pressing security issues to generate ideas for facilitating regional cooperation.

Third High Level Inter-Governmental Meeting Chair's Summary


The 3rd High-Level Intergovernmental Meeting on Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation (“the Meeting”) was held on 6 October 2016 in Washington D.C., co-hosted by the Republic of Korea and the United States.

The participants reviewed the developments in functional cooperation since the 2nd Meeting was held in Seoul in 2015 including the achievements in the field of Nuclear Safety and Disaster Management. They also discussed the possibility of including trust-building measures as a new area of cooperation under the framework of Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI). The participants will pull their efforts together to further increase cooperation in the key cooperation areas and identify new areas of cooperation.

The participants agreed that Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI) has contributed to the trust-building in Northeast Asia. They also recognized the valuable contributions by the meetings of the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Forum and the need to build on the discussion of the Meeting and continue their efforts to actively engage in multilateral dialogues and cooperation as a long-term investment for the peace and prosperity in the region.

The participants agreed to hold the 4th High-Level Intergovernmental Meeting on Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation in 2017.

Featured Remarks By Mr. Kim, Won-Soo, High Representative For Disarmament Affairs, United Nations

Mr. Kim, Won-soo

Mr. Kim, Won-soo is Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations. Prior to taking this position, Mr. Kim served as an Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United States. In that capacity, Mr. Kim worked as the Deputy Chief de Cabinet to the Secretary-General from 2007 to 2012 and led the Change Implementation team from 2012 to 2013 and concurrently served as the Secretary of the Chief Executives Board for coordination. Before joining the United Nations, he worked in the Office of the President of the Republic of Korea, serving as Secretary for International Security Affairs and as Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade. He then served as Director-General for Policy Planning and Ambassador for Regional Security Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Kim also served as Alternative Representative and Coordinator of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Security Council. Mr. Kim holds a Bachelor of Law degree from Seoul National University and an M.A. from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Victor Cha, Mr. Dong-ik Shin, distinguished session representatives, and participants, ladies and gentleman,

First of all, let me express my gratitude to the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Korea, the United States Department of State and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for arranging this forum. It is always a pleasure to be invited to this important process, as an international partner along with the European Union and the Orgnization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). I would also like to convey the greetings of the Secretary-General Ban to all the participants.

I also appreciate the many experts from the NAPCI participating countries, as well as the international partners who have gathered here over the last two days. The expertise you bring will be instrumental in aiding the process of building a regional institution. This Forum allows us the opportunity to take stock of the gains we have made and to think about where we should go.

The partnership of the United Nations with regional arrangements under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter has been a hallmark in our service for global public good. For the past seventy years, the United Nations has created a global web of cooperative networks with a growing number of regional and sub-regional organizations.

In this web, Northeast Asia remains a missing link. This has always been an anomaly, almost incongruous given its growing economic and strategic weight. Northeast Asia has the second, third and eleventh largest economies in the world. Together, China, Japan and the People’s Republic of Korea amount to over 27 per cent of global GDP. They have a combined annual military budget of around $224 billion.

A Northeast Asian regional cooperative framework is long overdue. This becomes more obvious if we have a closer look at how much the three countries in Northeast Asia are inter-connected.

First, in terms of economics and people’s exchanges, the region is interconnected as never before. China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are either their first, second or third largest trading partners. They are also either the first or second largest tourism destinations to each other. Nearly two hundred thousand students from ROK, China and Japan study in each other’s countries.

Second, the challenges facing the region are diverse and complex. Most of their impacts will be trans-boundary. Issues such as natural disasters, drug trafficking and energy security are already impacting Northeast Asia.

Third, solutions cannot be found by one country alone. Therefore, the potential gains from institutionalized regional cooperation clearly far outweigh the costs of cooperation.

Ladies and gentleman, the process advocated by the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI) presents a pragmatic way forward. As I understand, it does not aim to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it seeks to connect existing mechanisms and build on them to create a coordinated, comprehensive and consolidated framework.

Any institutional approach must be inclusive of all regional countries, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The United States and the Russian Federation must also be involved.

The approach must combine top-down leadership from the highest level with bottom-up functional interaction. This means starting with trans-boundary issues of potential high consequence, but where there are low levels of political differences. Nuclear safety and disaster risk management have been identified, as such issues. Issue areas such as health, climate change and environment, nuclear security and cyber security can further be considered.

The holding of the trilateral summit between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in November 2015 was a welcome development in providing leadership at the highest level. The ownership and stewardship of these three countries of any cooperative initiatives is the key to their successes.

ASEAN countries have for a long time done enough in trying to bring the three bigger countries in Northeast Asia together through the ASEAN +3 process and then adding another +3. Now it is incumbent on the three countries in Northeast Asia to take a more proactive leadership in consolidating their trilateral collaboration and involving other countries in the region to their processes like NAPCI.

Ladies and gentlemen, now let me touch upon the two issue areas NAPCI has focused on over the last year.

First, on nuclear safety. Northeast Asia has the highest concentration of nuclear power plants in the world. Consequently, there is a strong need for cooperation among the regional players for better cooperation and exchange of information on nuclear safety.

Nuclear security is also an area of common interest for all players in the region. Nuclear security and nuclear safety are the two sides of the same coin. Any accidents at nuclear power plants, man-made or natural, will have devastating consequences to the region.

In the last year, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea have agreed to enhance nuclear safety cooperation. Although this was primarily done bilaterally, it provided solid ground for the trilateral cooperation. Such enhanced cooperation may also help in developing a stronger nuclear safety culture, as well as expanding it to involve other key regional players such as the United States and the Russian Federation.

Second, disaster risk management. 1.6 billion people in Northeast Asia have been affected by natural disasters since 2000. The Asian region occupies 30% of the world's land mass, but 40% of the world's disasters occurred in the region in the past decade, resulting in a disproportionate 80% of the world's disaster deaths. This clearly indicates the benefits of regional cooperation in disaster risk management.

Last October’s trilateral agreement to respond to emergencies related to natural disasters represents tangible progress. So too does the agreement by the environmental ministers of the three nations agreed to cooperate on the management and reuse of disaster waste. Such cooperation could be expanded to other issues on which there is commonality, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as environmental protection.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, going forward, there are several confidence-building measures (CBMs), in peace and security that can facilitate regional collaboration. CBMs should be inclusive and transparent. Transparency promotes confidence. The exchange of information and the identification of norms based on common perceptions of values should be the starting point of any CBM exercise. Any agreed CBMs must be inclusively developed to be effective by all the participating parties.

In the context of the United Nations, CBMs include transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space (TCBMs), confidence-building in cyber security, the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 related to the preventive measures as well as capacity-building for weaker States against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) proliferation to non-state actors.

On CBMs related to military matters, the United Nations promotes several transparency instruments, such as the UN Register of Conventional Arms and the United Nations Report on Military Expenditures (MILEX). Countries in Northeast Asia have all been consistent supporters of these instruments. I would encourage all regional States to consider how such instruments could be tailored to a regional context. Confidence and security-building measures (CSBMs) promoted by the OSCE are also an important part of efforts to enhance security, transparency and predictability in the military area.

All these measures could be considered and emulated in the NAPCI context. The United Nations together with participating international partners, the OSCE and the European Union, stand ready to provide any assistance and expertise to NAPCI.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the elephant in the room is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Since the last Forum, the DPRK has conducted two nuclear tests and forty-one missile launches.

These provocations by the DPRK have cast a shadow over all other regional developments. They seriously undermine the international disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.

Maintaining international unity is crucial to responding to this grave challenge.

In parallel with addressing the challenge emanating from DPRK, efforts must continue to nurture a cooperative framework in Northeast Asia. The door must remain open to DPRK for the future. The DPRK should realize that it will be the biggest beneficiary of any enhanced cooperation, once they decide to reverse the course.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, NAPCI is a commendable effort to fill the overdue gap in an institutional framework in Northeast Asia. For the last three years, it has made significant achievements, but we must admit there is a long way to go. Institutionalization does not happen overnight. It requires years of accumulating habits of dialogue in select areas backed by inclusive processes and persistent commitments. Through these processes, greater convergence will emerge on the vision, ‘why’ it is needed and on the purpose, ‘what’ needs to be done, as well as on ‘how’ it is implemented. It takes collective efforts to develop the clarity of vision, the unity of purpose and the consistency in implementation. We all carefully need to nurture a three-year-old NAPCI into a mature institution. Challenges ahead will be many and complex. But as the Secretary-General Ban of the United Nations said at the beginning of his second term, five years ago, nothing is impossible if and when we work together. Only together we can build the future we want.

The journey to build an institution in Northeast Asia will not be easy but is worthy of persistent pursuit. The journey must go on.

In this regard, holding this year's NAPCI in Washington is a welcome development. It demonstrates greater sense of co-ownership of the process by the participating countries. I hope it will be further spread to other participants and that the next meeting will be hosted by other participating countries including Ulaanbaatar.

I would like to conclude by congratulating the US State Department and CSIS for successfully hosting NAPCI for the first time outside Korean soil and the Korean co-host for providing thoughtful bases for discussion, and last but not the least, thanking all the participants for your active participation and contributions.

I hope that this process will continue to be nurtured regardless of transitions in some of the participating governments, On the part of international partners, UN, OSCE and the EU, we can assure you that our assistance and cheerleading will continue despite some of our own transitions. I thank you so much.