Beijing workshop on East Asian Security

On 7-9 March 2002 Pugwash held its 2nd workshop on East Asian Security in Beijing, China.

Beijing report on East Asian security

Rapporteur: Mark B.M. Suh

Pugwash Meeting no. 268
Second Pugwash Workshop on East Asian Security

Beijing, China, 7-9 March 2002

By Mark B.M. Suh

The second Pugwash workshop on East Asian security was held March 7-9, 2002 in Beijing, China, and was a follow-up to the Pugwash workshop held in Seoul, South Korea in April 2001. More than 40 participants from 12 countries (including North Korea) took part in the workshop, which was hosted by the Chinese Pugwash Group and the Chinese Peoples’ Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD). Special thanks are due to Chen Ji-Feng, member of the Pugwash Council, and to Mr. Niu Qiang, Secretary General of CPAPD, for their efforts in organizing the meeting.

The meeting was not only timely but urgent as the region was facing some difficulties with the new situation after the terrorist attack on September 11th. The US decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and to speed the development of National Missile Defense caused growing concern not only in China and Russia but also with others fearing a renewed nuclear arms race in the region. In addition, the hopeful dialogue since the 2000 summit between North and South Korea had been stalled since March 2001, and the US and North Korea failed to resume negotiations on missile issues, in spite of verbal willingness to enter into dialogue. On the contrary, the situation worsened following President Bush’s remark in his State of the Union address about North Korea being part of the “axis of evil”.

On International Terrorism and East Asian Security

The workshop began with discussion on the timely topic of international terrorism and its impact on East Asia. Issues covered in this session included characteristics of terrorism, with an emphasis on the consequences of nuclear terrorism in different scenarios, and the principles that should be followed in combating international terrorism. Equal attention was given to the differing characteristics of terrorism in various countries, and how these impact security. Participants voiced warnings about double standards in the anti-terrorism campaign, and how these could undermine the current coalition in its fight against international terrorism.

Although there was no attempt to find a generally acceptable definition of terrorism, definitions of macro-terrorism and its various manifestations were introduced and discussed in detail. There was consensus that nuclear terrorism is unlikely, but possible scenarios were contemplated. The shipping industry as well as harbor facilities were mentioned as potential targets of macro-terrorism. Concerns were expressed about the difficulty of preventing terrorist attacks on such facilities, given the enormity of the international shipping trade (e.g., more than 18 million containers enter US ports each year).

One participant gave a comprehensive report on China’s reaction to the events of September 11, noting that China is not only cooperating with the US in combating international terrorism, but it is paying more attention to its Western border and Muslim population.

There was a general consensus that the fight against terrorism calls for joint efforts and concerted actions by all countries, as terrorism not only threatens the US but all countries in Asia as well. The importance of distinguishing terrorists from local discontent was stressed, however, especially in terms of maintaining the international coalition against terrorism.

One participant voiced the opinion that, after September 11, with the US and the international community now focused on prevention, it is less likely that a large scale terrorist attack can be successful. Several participants suggested that there is an urgent need for more study on the various causes for terrorism and how to eliminate them in order to prevent terror attacks. It was also noted that as the causes of terrorism are varied, so should responses be tailored to specific circumstances.

On the Security of the Korean Peninsula

The security issue on the Korean peninsula is of serious concern not only to North and South Korea, but also to the US and the major countries in the region. The discussion of Korean security benefited greatly from the presence of participants from both Koreas, as well as the US, Russia, Japan and China.

In terms of US-North Korean relations, one participant stressed the need for the US government to respect what had been previously agreed upon, to stop embarrassing the North Korean leadership, and to not make preconditions for the resumption of the dialogue. Despite these difficulties, optimism was expressed about the future of US and North Korean relations. Arguments were made about the need for a real peace treaty to replace the truce agreement with North Korea, while South Korean participants urged North Korea to resume dialogue with the South while President Kim Dae-Jung is still in office, and to respond positively to his friendly policy towards the North.

Other participants expressed their concern that with the uncertain outcome of the South Korean presidential election, the ending of the test-stop moratorium of North Korea, and the envisioned target date of the light-water reactor project, it could become more difficult to resume US-North Korean negotiations. It was hoped, therefore, that negotiations would start in 2002, as the uncertainties in 2003 could complicate the situation even more.

Several participants suggested that a US decision to talk with North Korea without preconditions should be followed by proactive steps in order to show good faith and to increase the prospects for success. Regret was expressed over President Bush referring to North Korea as being part of the ‘axis of evil,’ given that North Korea has been seeking to improve relations with the US and has no direct relations to the al-Qaeda network or to Iraq and Iran. There was general sentiment that an engagement policy would be beneficial to the US, Japan and South Korea, as it would increase stability, with participants calling for greater US support of the current South Korean policy of engagement.

Chinese, Russian as well as Japanese perspectives on the Korea question were shared and it was agreed that a peaceful Korean peninsula is important for peace and stability in East Asia. It was noted that the inter-Korean dialogue is key to reducing tensions and improving the situation on the Korean peninsula, thus the importance of resuming the dialogue between North and South Korea as soon as possible.

Missile Defense

The US intention to develop national as well as theater missile defense systems were viewed by many participants as dangerous and harmful to East Asia, bringing no advantage to the participating countries. Strong Chinese concerns in particular were expressed about the US plan to build a missile defense system in Taiwan. Others pointed to Japanese security interests and Japan’s desire to protect itself in responding to the threat posed by North Korean long range missiles.

One participant noted that as long as North and South Korea are seeking dialogue and peaceful coexistence, there is no need for South Korea to deploy the theater missile defense system. Another participant stressed that North Korea is neither interested in threatening others nor capable of developing long range ballistic missiles; moreover, North Korea stopped its missile testing in response to international criticism (North Korea is, however, interested in satellite launch for scientific research). It was also argued that the US intention to develop missile defense systems is to maintain military superiority, and that North Korea is only being used as a scapegoat in this regard.

Several participants commented that the Bush administration decision to withdraw from the ABM treaty in June 2002 was damaging to international security and required a strong international response regarding both the current US nuclear policy and the missile defense program. In particular, it was noted that arms control can be part of an overall anti-terrorism strategy, especially in terms of dismantling and eliminating tactical nuclear weapons and controlling fissile material.

While China needs to adjust to the new situation, it was argued that Beijing has no need, or intention, to increase its strategic nuclear capabilities to compete with the US. Rather, China is focusing on its economic development, and to this end is interested in a stable and peaceful region.

On the Future Role of Pugwash in the New Situation

The final session of the workshop was devoted to an open discussion on the prospects for peace in the region and the role Pugwash can and should play in the future. Discussion focused on international cooperation on security issues in the aftermath of September 11.

Several participants noted that there is an urgent need to get rid of Cold War mentalities and to cooperate against the common threat of international terrorism. Given that UN peacemaking capabilities are limited, global cooperation across a broad range of activities becomes all the more necessary.

Some participants pointed to the divisions between the West and the Islamic world, and advocated the promotion of dialogue across cultural and religious fault lines. Pugwash should continue its work on Israeli-Palestinian issues in light of the current Middle East crisis. Also mentioned was the importance of preventing military competition and conflict in outer space.

In general, the promotion of international norms and mechanisms for cooperation should be high on the Pugwash agenda. One participant noted that what is needed is an ‘axis of stability’ among members of the international community. Others pointed to the need for greater understanding of the causes of international terrorism, and the need to focus on multilateral rather than unilateral policies in combating the manifestations of terrorism.

As a whole, the three day workshop proved to be a useful forum for in-depth and frank exchanges of different views, helping to promote communication and enhance mutual understanding.


Working Papers

Georgy Kunadze (Russia): Korean Peninsula: What is in prospect?

John Rhinelander (USA): Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defenses and Asia

Clive Williams (Australia): Prospects for Macroterrorism

Futoshi Shibayama (Japan): Japan and Missile Defense: Road to Alliance Missile Defense

Robert A. Scalapino (USA): Peace on the Korean Peninsula–Problems and Prospects

Liu Gongliang (China): Missile Defense and Some Fundamental Theory of International Security

Donald G. Gross (USA): Weapons of Mass Destruction and North Korea

Mitchell B. Reiss (USA): A New US Policy Towards North Korea?

Yang Xianjun (China): The sea-based NMD & Its Impact on East Asia

Young-Hoon Kang (South Korea): (Revised) Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific and the Issue of Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

Liu Huaqiu (China): Review on the Proposals for a Nuclear -Weapon -Free Zone in Northeast Asia

Li Bin (China): On Nuclear Terrorism

Hajime Izumi (Japan): Japan’s Policy towards North Korea

Jiang Zhengming (China): Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Asia : Issues and Proposals

Werner Meissner (China): (Draft) East Asian Perspectives on International Terrorism – China’s Response to September 11 and Changes in its Geopolitical Situation

Ye Ru’an (China): Beyond the Endgame of the ABM Treaty: An Unfinished Story for Missile Defenses

Chen Jifeng (China): International Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism

Niu Qiang (China): Anti-terrorism and Its Impact on International and Regional Security Situation

Zhai Yucheng (China): Arms Control and Disarmament Process without ABM Treaty

Chun Yong-Taek (South Korea): Tension Reduction and Peace Settlement on the Korean Peninsula

Miao Weicheng (China): China’s Policy on the Korean Peninsula

Alexander Nikitin (Russia): Nuclear Weapons and Asian Security in a Post-ABM Era

Background Document

George R. Rathjens (USA): Ruminations on the Utility of Nuclear Weapons and Missile Defenses