US-China relations, tension in Korea concern former world leaders

US-China relations, tension in Korea concern former world leaders

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 31, 2019

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JEJU ISLAND, South Korea — Three former world leaders have expressed concern about the growing tension between the United States and countries in Asia, as well as the threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, ex-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Heinz Fischer, who served two terms as Austria’s leader, all voiced their positions about the trade row with the United States and China in particular, and the political situation involving North and South Korea during yesterday’s opening ceremony of the 2019 Jeju Forum for Peace & Prosperity on this island, a Korean tourist resort with elegant white sand beaches.

Hatoyama, who headed Japan’s political affairs from September 2009 to June 2010, took the position that the US was being too difficult in its handling of trade matters, and even indicated that Japan was being too embracing of Donald Trump, the US president, who visited that country last week for talks and golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“I’m not here to say that what Trump does is wrong. Trump and the US citizens don’t always coincide, but the US-China trade war is on the verge of an extremely difficult situation. It will react negatively to the American people as well. Who will be the winner? Who will be the loser? The people of both nations,” Hatoyama suggested.

The former Japanese top man said that Trump’s ‘America First’ policy was not good, and urged the people of the US to demand that Trump does what is in the best interest of the American people.

At the same time, Hatoyama called for the people of Asia, specifically those in the south-east, to also focus on themselves and get closer together.

“We need to establish a community of East Asia,” he said. “There is a need to establish the Asian version of the European Union. Fraternity is the most important thing we could uphold. Japan is now too dependent on the US — it should move to be closer to South Korea or China.

“There should be no emphasis on might. There should be the establishment of an organisation to see how best nations can improve their economies and promote regional prosperity. During my time as prime minister I emphasised the importance of planning,” he said.

Hatoyama said that North Korea will be at a disadvantageous position if there is a declaration of war on the Korean Peninsula, and that’s why the communist country was flexing its muscles by developing and testing nuclear weapons to show a ‘might’ that it did not have.

“North Korea should try a different approach and strike a compromise. Right now we need to make sure that North Korea does not launch any more nuclear weapons,” Hatoyama stated.

Underscoring that Asia was at the centre of the world economy today, Turnbull, prime minister of Australia from 2015 to 2019, said the fact that China had lifted millions of people out of poverty, with a “remarkable” growth economy, has had a positive effect as Asia has seen the “most remarkable transformation from poverty to prosperity” in the history of the world.

“I wouldn’t give up on US leadership just yet,” Turnbull continued, “but the rest of the world must get together to preserve world trade with or without the United States. The current political climate in Washington may not be an enduring one. The threat of Trump to the rules-based order is overdone,” he said.

Fischer, Austria’s president from 2004 to 2016, also felt that the US should beat its chest less often and embrace the world as a positive trading post.

“In the US, President Trump is very visible relying on the ‘my country first’ policy. The future of peace lies in cooperation, not confrontation. Only if one seeks cooperation instead of confrontation can major challenges be overcome,” Fischer said.

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was scheduled to speak at the forum but withdrew upon the sudden illness of his 100-year-old mother, said in a message that the global system of free trade was under attack.

Ban also said that multilateral cooperation was important to control the spread of nuclear weapons.

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