In a strong warning to North Korea, the Group of Eight leaders who met in Cologne, Germany, earlier this month said in a declaration that they “are deeply concerned about recent missile flight tests and developments in missile proliferation, such as actions by North Korea.”

The statement reflects the initiative taken by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who asserted that North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons program and its missile development “present problems not only for the security of Northeast Asia but also for global nonproliferation.”

The declaration also said nuclear and missile tests by India and Pakistan “have increased tension in the region” and urged the two feuding countries to join international efforts for nonproliferation and disarmament.

In addition, the G8 statement emphasized the need to improve the ability of the United Nations to prevent crises in order to deal more effectively with violent domestic conflicts.

With the next G8 summit scheduled for July 2000 in Okinawa, Japan, the host nation, faces a difficult task: How can it demonstrate leadership to ensure security in Asia?

In Asia, which has no regional security framework similar to NATO, it is difficult to take effective steps to prevent conflicts or meet military threats. That is why Obuchi, speaking at the summit, called for reform of the U.N. Security Council as a way to resolve or prevent conflicts.

He told reporters that “NATO’s bombing has opened the way for a settlement of the Kosovo conflict. But the same approach cannot be taken in Northeast Asia. I hope Group of Eight leaders from America and Europe realize that Northeast Asia is not Kosovo.”

In the Korean Peninsula, the Cold-War structure of confrontation remains, while relations between China and the United States are the worst since the Tienamen Square incident of 10 years ago. Sino-U.S. ties have deteriorated rapidly amid U.S. charges that China has stolen U.S. nuclear secrets. The Chinese outrage at the U.S. came close to the flash point after NATO bombs mistakenly hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

China has consistently opposed the military settlement of the Kosovo conflict. Obuchi’s comment that the NATO strategy does not apply to Asia partly reflected the Chinese position. It is indeed difficult to ensure peace in Asia — and in the world as well — without stability in Sino-U.S. relations.

At the summit the prime minister appealed for “constructive engagement” with China. And in a meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Obuchi said he would like to play a mediating role in improving Sino-U.S. ties during his visit to Washington in mid-July.

North Korea, meanwhile, has not yet reacted to a diplomatic overture from former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, Washington’s point man for Pyongyang, who has been reviewing U.S. policy toward the communist state. During a visit to North Korea in late May, Perry offered a policy outline that called for a comprehensive approach based on dialogue and deterrence. Immediately following the Perry visit, Pyongyang sent its No. 2 man, Kim Yong Nam, a top official in the Supreme People’s Assembly, to Beijing in an effort to improve ties with China and restructure its external relations.

However, relations between North and South Korea remain tense. The tension heightened June 15 when North and South Korean patrol boats engaged in a gun battle in the Yellow Sea. South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s “sunshine policy” is coming under increasing criticism from opposition parties as well as the public.

Around the same time, the U.S. Defense Department, South Korea’s National Intelligence Agency and Japan’s Defense Agency all revealed that North Korea was preparing to launch another ballistic missile, presumably a Taepodong 2, and that the missile may be fired in one to three months. North Korea first fired a similar missile over Japan last August.

According to the 1998 Pentagon report “The United States Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region,” the Taepodong 2 missile probably has a range of over 4,000 kilometers. North Korea, says the report, “continues to place a high priority on the development and sale of ballistic missiles, equipment and related technology, particularly to countries in South Asia and the Middle East.”

The Japanese government plans to deal with North Korea in cooperation with the U.S. and South Korea along the lines of “dialogue and deterrence.” Japan pressed other G8 countries, including Russia, to support South Korean President Kim’s sunshine policy. A summary statement on the G8 foreign ministers’ talks expressed such support for the first time.

The statement also expressed concern about the alleged kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, an issue that stands in the way of normalization talks between Japan and North Korea. Calling it a “humanitarian problem,” the document urged the North Koreans to take “constructive action.”

In addition, the foreign ministers’ statement supported the process of democratization and reform in Indonesia, as well as efforts for “human security,” such as the campaign to prevent the proliferation of small arms and the battle against terrorism.

The Okinawa summit in 2000 will be held at a historic juncture as the world puts the turbulent 20th century behind it and enters a new millennium. In the runup to the meeting, how much progress will have been made for peace and stability, particularly toward the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles and the prevention of regional conflicts?

Perhaps the answer is none. Still, the G8 summit in Okinawa — a symbol of the 100,000-strong U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region — will mark an important step toward the formation of a new world order in the 21st century if summit leaders from the U.S. and Europe understand the realities of Asia — that it is fraught with conflict and tension — and demonstrate unity for the promotion of peace and stability.

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