U.N. chief urges new crop of Asian leaders to play nice, widen horizons

Kyodo

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Wednesday he hopes the new leaders in Japan, China and South Korea can work together to make the region secure and peaceful during an “important” and “exciting” transition period.

“I hope that new leaders of the region will embrace the spirit of mutual understanding and respect and cooperation for regional peace and stability,” Ban told reporters at his yearend press conference. “The peace and stability and their cooperation in the region has wider regional implications.”

In addition to calling the region a “dynamic economic force,” Ban also spoke of his expectation that the new leaders will be “forward-looking” and have a “broader global vision” to coordinate and cooperate with one another.

He was referring to the spate of recent elections in the region. On Sunday the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power after an overwhelming victory in the Lower House election, setting the stage for conservative Shinzo Abe to make his return as Japan’s seventh prime minister in six years.

The U.N. chief extended his congratulations and looked forward to working with Abe “on all the matters of our regional concerns” once he is inaugurated.

In Ban’s home country of South Korea, Park Geun Hye, of the conservative Saenuri Party, declared victory in Wednesday’s presidential elections, marking the first time a woman will lead the country.

Last month in Beijing, Xi Jinping became the Chinese Communist Party’s general secretary and is expected to assume the presidency early next year as part of a Chinese once-in-a-decade power transition.

Territorial disputes over islands in the East and South China seas and the Sea of Japan have caused friction among the three regional giants and their neighbors.

With regard to the particularly heated issue of the island chain called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, Abe has signalled the LDP will take a hardline stance against China.

The regional leadership changes also follow a political shift in communist North Korea, known officially as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, when Kim Jong Un took over the reins from his father, Kim Jong Il, after he died in December last year.

The younger Kim has continued to pursue the country’s military-first policy.

The North unsuccessfully tried to launch a rocket in April before succeeding in another attempt on Dec. 12 that put a satellite in orbit.