A (North) East Asian Community

EDITORIAL, 26 Sep 2011

#183 | Johan Galtung, 26 Sep 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Northeast Asia Peace and Development Forum. Dalian, China, 24 Sep 11

Your Excellencies, Fellow Participants,

I would like to start by expressing my deep gratitude to CPAPD–the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament–and my friends Secretary General Niu Qiang and the Deputy Secretary General in particular–for organizing this important Forum, inviting the NGO, TRANSCEND, delegation, and for giving me the honor of opening this Forum.

The world is regionalizing, except for the biggest states–China, India, USA, Russia.  Means of communication and transport contradict the size of most states.  We have already the European Union, the African Union, a South Asian Association, a Southeast Asian Association.  A Latin American Community is on the way.  And so is an Islamic community of 57 members from Morocco to Mindanao; they just made a major step forward by changing the name from Organization of the Islamic Conference to Organization for Islamic Cooperation.  We sense a United Regions, like a United Nations.

But there is no (North) East Asian Community.  We are not counting the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-SCO, a reaction to the expansion of two US-led alliances defined by US Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum 570/2 of 1943: NATO from 1949, AMPO (the US-Japan Security Treaty) from 1952 (and the Rio de Janeiro Treaty of 1947).  We are talking of communities centered on economic and political cooperation, with cultural homogeneity (EU-European Union, OIC-Organization for Islamic Cooperation) or not (AU-African Union, SAARC-South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, ASEAN-Association of Southeast Asian Nations).  The consultation mechanism proposed here by former Mongolian PM Bayar might be a very good beginning.

With an East Asian Community based in China, both Koreas and Japan would share Chinese history culturally, Confucianism and Buddhism.  Viêt Nam also belongs here, and might serve as a link to Southeast Asia.  The expansion to Northeast Asia with Mongolia and Russia, from early on or later, makes geographically good sense, and the cultural and political diversity would not exceed Southeast Asia.

Any (N)EAC would search for cooperation with the USA on equal terms, including observer status; but by no stretch of imagination is it a (North)East Asian country.  The times when the USA could also claim membership in Latin America, Europe and Asia are gone.

Across this diverse geographical-historical-cultural space there is an East Asian similarity: social-economic human rights first, civil-political later–the Chinese “opening up”.  Japan did that from early Meiji, and in the “Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” through fifty years of imperialism.  18 September marked 80 years after the Japanese 1931 Manchuria invasion.  The impact, like the economics of a Kaname Akamatsu, was not only negative.

Development would be a key theme of a (N)EAC, and today we know that when developed countries develop the developing, the result is usually dependency and-or cloning.  What makes sense is “I develop myself” and the reciprocity of “we develop each other”.  And maybe a common currency; a single one assumes joint treasury.

The second key theme is peace.  There is the negative peace of reconciliation after the traumas of the past and mediating ongoing conflicts; and the positive peace of cooperation for mutual and equal benefit, harmony, and integration-fusion.  Thus, a good solution for contested islands-islets would be to make them joint EAC property, financing the community from the proceeds.  The EU experience is that inter-state contradictions become less sharp when there is a community umbrella: N. Ireland, the Basques.

Another example is the Russia-Japan conflict over the South Kuriles/Northern Territories–Russian after the Pacific War (the alternative considered was from Sendai to all of Hokkaido).  Japan has no automatic right to them; yet a wise thing for Russia would be to hand them back and for Japan to invest in Russia’s Far East, without coupling the two.  And: give one island to the Ainu.

There is so much to gain.  What is holding it up?

Above all Washington’s policy marred by two traumas: “losing China” in 1949 (as if it ever belonged to them), and not winning the Korean war 1950-53 after victories only, since 1812. Washington now sells arms to Taiwan in spite of the great progress in cross-straits talks, and denies North Korea normalization (peace treaty, diplomatic relations). The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-DPRK’s conflict is with the USA, not with South Korea—but the USA can play on the East-West divide in the Republic of Korea-ROK.  The highly unsuccessful Six Party Talks were designed to make North Korea denuclearize, but both USA and Japan failed to deliver as promised.  The talks could make sense if the other four could encourage the USA and North Korea to develop the instruments for complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea and the peninsula, and complete and verifiable normalization with the DPRK.  These instruments are then deposited with the others for parallel realization; obviating the problem they had of who goes first.

In principle feasible, but there is no sign of Washington updating its 60-year old world map.  Having a de facto veto on Japanese foreign policy, Japan cannot even reconcile with China and Korea for the crimes committed.  Peace would stand in the way of belligerent intents, so they blow up inexcusable but insignificant North Korean abductions of Japanese to seek cover in victim roles.  The present Japanese PM, Noda, wants bilateralism with neighbors and deepening of an obviously ill-fated alliance with the USA.  There is something autistic in Japan, far from the leads towards cooperation years ago by former PM Murayama, present at this conference.

Concrete proposals for an alternative Yasukuni shrine, and for reconciliation with DPRK, by Fumiko Nishimura and myself, are appended. Conclusion: (N)EAC should go ahead, but always remain open for Japan to join, when Japan is ready to do what it takes.



To put to rest the souls of those who perished in the service of the state, including Class A war criminals, is an honorable duty. But an adequate memorial to 1931-45 should not polarize but reconcile. The Yasukuni shrine polarizes between Japan and China-Korea-other victim countries, and polarizes deeply within Japan.

Turning those who perished in the service of the Japanese state into gods is a strong political statement.  As such the Yasukuni shrine may be protected by the freedom of belief and expression.

But visits by a Japanese Prime Minister are an act of endorsement, by the state, of that political statement and as such unacceptable.  Removing the Class A war criminals will not change that fact.

Moreover, during the period 1931-45 Japan was both perpetrator and victim. An adequate Memorial must reflect both in a balanced way.


The following TEN PROPOSALS FOR A MEMORIAL FACILITY are inspired by Memorial in Caen, Normandie, France, and the Okinawa Monument.

[1]  A Memorial facility should be dedicated to all who perished by acts of war 1931-45, in the service of the state or not, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and others, including Americans.

[2]  The Memorial would address both the negative past and positive visions of a cooperative future, such as an East Asian Community.  Visitors should share sorrow for the divisive past and optimism for a shared future; clearing the past and entering the future together. Only through a better future can we meaningfully overcome the past.

[3]  There should be a Room of Silence for deep meditation and joint sorrow; with unifying, not divisive, texts and symbols.

[4]  The Memorial itself should be religiously neutral, but open for religious and multi-religious services in the Room of Silence.

[5]  Heads of State and-or Government of the countries concerned, and others, should be invited to pay their respect in the Memorial; singly or jointly, also using the Memorial for unifying statements.

[6]  The Memorial should have a research center on the Pacific Hemisphere, both to understand the factors causing 1931-45 and the conditions that would make war unthinkable; and a peace museum showing the implications of war, absence of war and positive peace.

[7]  The Memorial should combine dignity and beauty with facilities for politicians, civil society, women and youth groups, artists and others to share the past and construct a peaceful future together.

[8]  The construction of the Memorial should be based on dialogue and cooperation, not on unilateral Japanese action.

[9]  A design competition among architects and others should be open to all countries concerned, with a multi-national jury.

[10]  Similar Memorials might also be constructed in China, in both Koreas, and in the USA, as acts of international cooperation.



[1] DPRK: Damage and suffering caused by Japanese Imperialism

– one million killed/tortured (also hibakusha)

– six million mobilized into war service in various ways

– 200,000 comfort women

– economic looting

– cultural treasures stolen

zainichi situation in Japan

– responsibility for the division of Korea by making it a colony.


[2] DPRK: Compensation depends on type of damage/suffering

– money cannot recover human lives/slavery (but $9-10b is heard)

– comfort women from government, not from Asian Women’s Fund

– economic looting: economic infrastructure/social services

– cultural treasures: must be handed back to DPRK

– zainichi: human rights in Japan

– wholehearted Japanese support in the struggle for unification

The victim will decide what is enough, not the perpetrator.


[3] DPRK: Conception of “real apology”

– has to come from present Prime Minister

– has to be in writing, preferably in a joint communiqué

– has to contain the word “apology”, not only remorse, regret

– has to be specific to the country and the damage/suffering

– has to be “deep”, reflected in textbooks, Yasukuni visits, etc.

– has to live up to world trend in apology/compensation.


[4] Comparison with other cases

R of Korea:                   -1965 peace treaty: killed, wounded, damage only

-1998 Kim Dae Jung visit produced a model joint declaration:  “remorseful repentance and a heartfelt apology”

PR of China:                 -1972: Japan-China normalization (diplomatic relations)

(Taiwan                         -1978: Treaty of peace and friendship

wants to be                 -1992: Emperor visit, “deplore”, not apologize

included)                    -1998: Obuchi oral, not written apology

Murayama                 -1995: former PM/not specific (“Asian nations”)/not deep.


[5] Normalization

– Diplomatic relations, not humiliating laissez-passer document

– The word “abduction” assumes the unproved; “missing” correct

– Missiles within the framework of a general treaty for NE Asia

– No (Okinawa) Japanese participation in military exercises.


[6] Impediments


– will not/cannot do anything before the USA does

– is afraid of/agrees with Japanese patriots, “divine country”

– wants money to individuals, direct compensation

– wants money to people, not diverted to palaces, military etc.

Last two points: Japan gives to infrastructure/social services; but is not in a moral position to dictate how the money is used.

Japanese elites (with Diet/Media) tend to decide secretly; then saying nothing, lying, or as fait accompli to the people.


 United States:

– DPRK needed as rogue state/enemy for US/Japan, E. Asia goals

– DPRK was not defeated, last war won in East Asia was 1945

– DPRK has their own ideology (juche), is autonomous, uppity

– DPRK does not practice free market capitalism USA-style

– DPRK does not have democratic elections.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Sep 2011.

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2 Responses to “A (North) East Asian Community”

  1. I agree with Mr. galtung.