The SI Asia-Pacific Committee gave a boost to plans for the long-delayed re-unification of North and South Korea when it met on 5-6 March in Tokyo. The meeting, which was hosted by the Social Democratic Party of Japan, tackled many of the principal political concerns of the region and demonstrated the new vigour that the International is showing in one of the most populous and important areas of the world.
The gathering brought together members of the Millennium Democratic Party of the Republic of Korea in the South and of the Workers' Party of Korea from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK, in the North. It was widely hailed in the region as a big step in support the process of reconciliation that began with the summit between the leaders of the two states, the South's Kim Dae Jung and the North's Kim Jong Il in June of last year.
One important concrete result of the talks is that the SI is to break new ground by mounting a high level mission to the two republics, its first-ever, later this year.
The Committee called on SI parties round the world to promote the bilateral relations with the North, provide it with humanitarian assistance and facilitate the DPRK's desire for better international links.
Both countries would take their places in the projected Northeast Asia Comprehensive Security Organisation which the Committee called for. Its other members would be Japan, China, Mongolia, Russia, the United States and Canada.
This body would play an active role in resolving conflicts, and in addressing problems that of poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and inequality. The planned Organisation incorporates guarantees against military action.
Among other topics discussed were the withdrawal of US forces from the Japanese island of Okinawa; the racial tension in Fiji; authoritarian rule in Pakistan; the continuing plight of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma; police violence in Malaysia; the search for better democracy in the Philippines; intolerance in Afghanistan with regard to the role of women and its own cultural heritage; political transition in Indonesia; political progress in East Timor. Also discussed were Papua New Guinea and the problems in Bougainville; West Papua and the Solomon Islands.
The Socialist International Asia-Pacific Committee reaffirms its determination to achieve peace and security for all the people of this vital region of the world. It also reiterates its long-standing commitment, in cooperation with Socialist International member parties throughout the world, to support the building and strengthening of democracy in every country. Peace is a fundamental requirement for economic development, while democracy and respect for human rights are key conditions for ensuring a durable peace.
With regard to South Korea and North Korea, it continues to fully support the process of reconciliation that began with the historic summit between the leaders of the two states in June of last year. It was particularly pleasing to have representatives of the two ruling parties participating together in its meeting in Tokyo and their informative contributions to the discussion were greatly valued. It is also noted with great satisfaction the recent efforts toward reuniting Korean families that have been divided for so many years and the Committee encourages both countries to find ways to expand and make permanent this important humanitarian and confidence-building programme.
As part of its ongoing efforts to encourage greater trust and continued progress toward reunification on the Korean peninsula, the International, in line with decisions taken previously, will undertake the concrete step of carrying out a SI mission to both South Korea and North Korea during the second half of this coming April. At the same time, it calls upon SI member parties and its parties in government to encourage the further inclusion of North Korea into the international community by actively promoting participation in various international bodies, by establishing diplomatic relations at the bilateral level and by providing assistance in the recovery of the North, including humanitarian aid.
At the regional level, it supports the proposal by the Social Democratic Party of Japan to establish a Northeast Asia Comprehensive Security Organisation with eight member countries including Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Russia, the United States and Canada. This body would play an active role in resolving conflicts, and in addressing the common problems that are at the root of conflicts such as poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and inequality both between and within countries. To strengthen the capability of this body, it endorses the idea of incorporating and implementing the guarantees against military action as they are stated in Japan's peace constitution. Such an organisation would provide a framework for cooperation and dialogue between nations and, once established, could also provide a model for enhancing political and economic relations between the nations of Southeast Asia as well.
With specific regard to Japan, it recognises that the Okinawan people and others in Japan have been appealing for the deliberate, gradual realignment and withdrawal of the US bases in Okinawa. The Committee supports these proposals which aim to eliminate the threat to human rights, the environment and the lives of Okinawan people, and in this way stands together with them for the restoration of human dignity and preservation of the environment.
It also reaffirms the strong commitment of the Socialist International against nuclear proliferation and its continuing stand to avoid any arms race involving either nuclear or conventional weapons. In this regard, it supports the initiative of the Social Democratic Party of Japan toward achieving a nuclear-free zone in Northeast Asia, and repeats its previous calls for far-reaching reductions in the production and sale of conventional arms, and for the ban of all biological and chemical weapons. It recognises that securing a nuclear-free zone will require much work and patience, but already it can see some positive developments in the region and remains confident that step by step it can reach this very important goal.
At the global level, it recognises the critical role played by the United Nations in the pursuit of peace and security and in addressing such concerns as racial and religious discrimination, which are at the root of so much tension and conflict in the region and in other parts of the world. In this regard, it advocates full respect for the opinions and viewpoints of developing countries in the United Nations and, as they constitute a majority of UN members, that they be fully involved in the making of decisions by the body. This will promote more effective cooperation between nations and enhance the prospects for conflict resolution.
A United Nations that operates in a more equitable way is important to ensure that economic globalisation works for all people in all countries. This also means increasing efforts to address the specific needs and protecting the rights of children, the elderly and especially women. In particular, the members of the Committee call for increasing efforts as part of the ongoing Socialist International campaign to end violence against women. It also calls for renewed determination in support of the International's campaign against the death penalty. The International remains confident in the continuing struggle for peace, security and social justice because it pursues these goals with the full participation of women in all spheres of activity - political, economic, social and cultural. At the same time, it gains further strength through the continuing cooperation between social democratic parties and free trade unions, including the affiliates of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - Asian and Pacific Regional Organisation, ICFTU-APRO.
As the International enhances its activities in the field of peace and security, it recommits itself to the struggle for democracy in Asia and the Pacific. In this sense, it is pleasing to hear of the recent decision by the Court of Appeal in favour of maintaining the 1997 constitution in Fiji, a confirmation of the position taken by the Committee at its meeting last year in Wellington. It now calls for the return to a democratic rule of law in Fiji based on the constitution.
In Burma, the Committee notes the first steps toward dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime. This is a significant and potentially positive development. However, the conditions of repression remain in force. It therefore advocates that the International maintain its pressure, based on prior resolutions including the 1999 Declaration of Paris, to ensure that dialogue is serious, the only way that can lead to substantial and lasting democratic change. It also calls upon international bodies to join the SI in demanding the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
In Malaysia the Committee notes with concern the attempts by the government to resort to communal politics to regain its eroding public support. It is also dismayed at the recent trend of police violence and repression against peaceful political gatherings. However, it is pleased to see that the movement for democracy is gathering momentum everyday and reiterates its support for the key role played by the SI member, the Democratic Action Party, in responding under difficult circumstances to the democratic aspirations of the Malaysian people.
It also deplores the continuation of authoritarian rule in Pakistan and repeats the call of the International for the reestablishment of democracy as soon as possible through the holding of free elections.
In the Philippines the strength and purpose of citizens in the quest for better democracy and more effective democratic institutions has clearly been seen. Again they have created the opportunity for establishing truly responsive and accountable government and the Committee fully backs the role of SI member Philippines Democratic Socialist Party in the effort.
Indonesia is undergoing a very difficult transition and the Committee hopes that the constitution will remain the basis both for ensuring democratic rule and for achieving peaceful resolution to internal conflicts which have recently led to such serious bloodshed.
In East Timor, it continues to back the independence and democratisation process and notes positively the emergence of new political parties with the approach of elections.
It also has continuing concerns in the South Pacific, including in Papua New Guinea, where the civil conflict in Bougainville has yet to be resolved; West Papua, where reports of human rights abuses continue; and the Solomon Islands, where tensions linger.
In Afghanistan, it remains deeply concerned about the continuation of extreme intolerance, both with regard to women's rights and the fundamental right of religious pluralism, and therefore deplores the destruction of the Buddhist shrines.
Finally, the Committee recognises that all these efforts toward achieving peace and building and preserving democracy in Asia and the Pacific are part of the overall global approach of the International. The challenges are great but it continues moving forward, confident that social democracy is the only movement that brings people together and that people are what gives the movement its strength.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Socialist International Vice-President
Chair of the meeting
Socialist International Secretary General
Australian Labor Party, ALP
Socialist Party, PS
Social Democratic Party, SPD
Democrats of the Left, DS
Social Democratic Party, SDP
Democratic Action Party, DAP
Kerk Kim Hock
Hew Kwang Yau
Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, MPRP
Pakistan People’s Party, PPP
Syed Sajjad Bokhari
Asim Hafeez Khan
Philippine Democratic Socialist Party, PDSP
Parliamentary Group of the PES
Socialist International Women, SIW
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions —
Asia Pacific Regional Organisation, ICFTU-APRO
National League for Democracy, NLD
Cambodian People’s Party, PPC
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Millennium Democratic Party
Lee Nak Yon
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Workers’ Party of Korea
Nam Sung U
Kim Myong Su
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