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The leaders of the world’s eight major powers, in their annual three-day summit that ended Sunday in Cologne, Germany, pledged to strengthen and broaden their close partnership in settling the exigent issues that are unsettling the international community. Because it came in the wake of the Kosovo conflict that had prompted NATO’s military intervention, however, the summiteers were unduly pressed by the need to cool the still red-hot ashes in the troubled region.

This apparently did not allow them to debate fundamental problems underlying the post-Cold War crises. In other words, the Cologne meeting failed to send out a concerted message about a clear agenda for global peace and stability.

Yet this does not belittle the significance of the agreements reached among the summit leaders on international measures to consolidate the precarious peace arrangement for Kosovo and other regional conflicts. It is true that presummit efforts to settle the conflict had set the basic course for the summiteers: Yugoslavia had agreed to pull its troops out of Kosovo; NATO accordingly had stopped bombing targets in Yugoslavia; and the United States and Russia had managed to reach a last-minute accord on a partnership between NATO and Russia in the Kosovo peacekeeping force.

All these agreements were consolidated by the summit leaders. Actually, daunting tasks, including the safe return home of nearly 1 million refugees and the social and economic rehabilitation of Kosovo, await international assistance, led by the G8 nations. Japan can play an important role in helping to carry out these tasks, and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi made that commitment in Cologne.

But it is easier said than done to set a troubled region on track toward peace and stability. History shows that a short-range step, using military force, cannot guarantee a long-lasting peace in a perennially troubled region. This applies in the case of Kosovo. And it provokes suspicions about the summit’s failure to discuss how to secure a lasting peace for such a region in this post-Cold War age.

NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia for about two and a half months was a massive use of joint military force by the U.S. and other leading military powers. Of course, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s inhuman policy of ethnic cleansing is primarily to be blamed. Indeed, Mr. Milosevic’s parochial racism defied moderate international efforts to stop his serious human-rights violations. Therefore, the NATO action was taken as a means of last resort for saving Albanian Kosovars from the bloody hands of Mr. Milosevic’s troops.

Official spokesmen for NATO and many other nations emphasize that the bombing has effectively opened a way for a settlement of the problem. At the same time, however, it is a fact that the bombing spurred the Yugoslav troops’ atrocities against the Albanian Kosovars, producing even more refugees. Many innocent people died as victims of errant attacks. Obviously, NATO’s military action has brought an end to the bloody human-rights violation in Kosovo. But, for all this, nobody can remain blind to the fact that the bombing conducted in the name of humanity also turned out to be inhumane for many people.

NATO launched its bombing without any resolution by the U.N. Security Council. The reason was obvious: Russia and China seemed most likely to veto such an action. This posed an unsettling question: Is the use of military force to intervene in a basically domestic affair justifiable if it lacks U.N. sanction? No report on the Cologne summit indicates that the top leaders of the world’s major democracies exchanged frank views on these fundamental problems.

The annual summit is known as a kind of closing ceremony to approve the answers written by government officials for the homework adopted at the preceding summit. Given the enormity of the issue, however, the summit leaders should have discussed how to establish guiding principles for preventing or settling crises like Kosovo. How to strengthen the U.N.’s capacity to solve crises must be the topic of highest priority in such a discussion.

Just the same, the Cologne summit agreed on measures to ensure a balanced development of economic globalization, which included burden sharing in relieving debtor nations of their financial burdens. With the next summit scheduled to be held in Okinawa, efforts must be stepped up to help that meeting set principles for a more peaceful and stabilized world in the next century.

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