Jose de Venecia, Jr. Speaks at 2011 Global Peace Convention

Global Peace Foundation
November 28, 2011
Global Peace Convention
November 28-30, 2011
Seoul, South Korea
Theme: “Peace-building in East Asia and the Unification of the Korean Peninsula”
Jose de Venecia, Jr., Former Speaker of the House, Republic of the Philippines; Founding Chairman, International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP); Founding President, Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI)

Jose de Venecia

On behalf of the Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI) let me add my welcome to those already expressed here for all the participants in this Convention organized by the Global Peace Foundation under the leadership of Dr. Hyun Jin Moon to discuss “Peace-building in East Asia and the Unification of the Korean Peninsula.

And I’m pleased—and honored—to report to you the recent formation of an “Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council‘” that we hope will assist and advise governments ruling in the aftermath of internal conflicts set off by citizens asserting their political and human rights and of the need to solve the difficult problem of transition to democracy and the return to popular governance in the wake of the “Arab Spring”.

An Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council

The Council—and we are planning our offices in Bangkok—to complement the CAPDI Peace Initiative in Phnom Penh, is to be managed by eminent persons from both East and West.

Among those who signed its founding Bangkok Declaration, on August 25, were two former presidents—Ricardo Lagos of Chile and Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland—Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer, former Chancellor of Austria; ex-Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan; Rodolfo Severino, former Secretary General of ASEAN; myself as ICAPP founding Chairman; David Kennedy, Director of the Institute for Global Law and Policy of Harvard Law School; and former Philippine Secretary of Finance Jose Isidro Camacho, Vice Chairman of Credit Suisse Asia-Pacific.

This distinguished group was gathered together by Surakiart Sathirathai, President of the Saranrom Institute of Foreign Affairs Foundation of Thailand. It was to Dr. Surakiart, a former deputy prime minister and foreign minister of his country, that I proposed creating the Council—a proposal he took up briskly and effectively.

In succeeding weeks, the Council was endorsed by the Royal Government of Cambodia under Premier Hun Sen and Deputy Premier Sok An; the Government of East Timor under President Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Premier Xanana Gusmao; ICAPP, representing Asia’s ruling and opposition parties; the Centrist Asia-Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI), represented here by its Secretary-General, former Pakistan presidential candidate Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Trustees who are here Dr. Manu Chandaria of Kenya, Ed Castro, Dr. Young Jun Kim, President of our Global Peace Festival Foundation and Chun Sik Lee of South Korea, and Sir James Mancham, the visionary founding President of Seychelles, who was just honored by the Gusi Peace Prize in Manila last week, CAPDI being composed of centrist parties and civil society organizations; and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, representing Southeast Asia’s 10 parliaments.

Let me brief you quickly on the principles that will guide our Council—and how we intend to help along the cause of peace and reconciliation in Asia.

The principles guiding our Council

The uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’ exemplify how citizens in the new countries are claiming their civil liberties—and demanding the right to decide their own futures. Similar liberation movements have in the last 25 years broken out in Eastern Europe, Latin America, East Asia and Africa.

Since popular rebellions arise from pent-up grievances, they demand accounting and retribution for the crimes and offenses of the old regime.

Yet the primary need of the new political order must be of truth, justice and reconciliation as balms for healing society’s wounds. Everywhere in the developing world, the urgent need is to ensure that popular victories won at such great cost are not dissipated by excesses on the part of the new governments. Witness the worsening new uprising in Egypt and the Syrian tragedy.

Crimes committed during internal conflicts must be seen truthfully and in whole. Justice must be done; society’s wounds must be healed; reforms must begin—without new blood debts becoming owed and without impairing national society’s ability to face the future united, serene, at peace with itself.

It is this constructive spirit our Council will seek to establish and promote.

Models for reconciliation

East Asia does not lack precedents and models of peace and reconciliation. Of these, the Cambodian experience is the best known. Dragged into a regional conflict, the Cambodian people endured invasions and two decades of a genocidal civil war—during which some 2-million of their people may have perished. From that catastrophic conflict, the Cambodians have risen, their spirit unbroken and unbowed.

Politically, Cambodia’s constitutional monarchy has been restored. Premier Hun Sen has achieved the seemingly impossible: he has combined four warring factional armies into one Cambodian Armed Forces; and the opposing parties into a government of national unity. Meanwhile, he and Deputy Premier Sok An, represented here by H.E. Vice-Minister Tekreth Samrach and Hon. Kong Chanveasna of the Council of Ministers have continued to pursue those responsible for war crimes. An International Tribunal is sitting in judgment on those responsible for the mass-killings of the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-79.

Where our good offices will be most useful?

Where would our Council’s advice and assistance be most useful?

Internal conflicts set off by ethnic, religious and cultural schisms are ongoing in Southern Thailand; in Mindanao in the Philippines; in parts of East Indonesia, and in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, influences from the Middle East have stirred up Islamist radicalism in Southeast Asia and brought forth a regional terrorist movement. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in Iraq, in the light of the announced U.S. withdrawal, it is important that we extend whatever assistance we can manage to the faint beginnings of talks with the Taliban.

Through CAPDI and ICAPP, we have been encouraging ‘Track Two’ diplomacy efforts at conciliating contending political parties—starting with those in Nepal and in Kashmir, all of whom are ICAPP charter members­. Only a few weeks ago, providing an Asian solution to an Asian problem and without outside interference, the four Nepalese parties led by the Maoists, the Marxists, and the Congress Party have agreed on the modalities of resettling some 19,000 Maoists ex-guerrillas into civil society. A third of them will be incorporated into the Nepal armed forces.  Two-thirds will be demobilized with substantial ‘separation’ benefits.

Let me add that in more than ten years of conflict in Nepal, the Global Peace Foundation under Dr. Hyun Jin Moon helped mobilize the forces of civil society and inter-faith organizations in that Himalayan Hindu state of 23 million to contribute to dialogue and the process of peace and reconciliation, as well as in Kenya, Paraguay, and Mongolia .

We have invited to meet in Makati City in Metro Manila—under ICAPP, CAPDI and Council auspices—early in the first quarter of next year in informal party-to-party diplomacy the Indian and Pakistan parties for peace consultations on Kashmir to complement efforts of their two governments.

We regard as part of our Council’s test how helpful it can become in helping to bring together the ‘Red Shirts’ and ‘Yellow Shirts’ of Bangkok—the Thai capital we have chosen as our Council headquarters. Their confrontations have set back Thailand’s progress toward First-World economic rank. Last month, we, the Council founders met with former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra in Phnom Penh to see how we can advance the possibilities of reconciliation in Thailand with the popular Thaksin and their revered and beloved King.

Competing claims to the China Sea

Even the South China Sea has become a focus of controversy. Here the issue concerns competing claims to the strategic waterway and its rich resources—of hydrocarbons, fish, and minerals. Those with conflicting claims in the Spratlys in the South China Sea are China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan; and China and Vietnam on the Paracels; and Japan and China over the Senkaku Straits (Diaoyu, to the Chinese) in the East China Sea, and between Japan and South Korea in the waters between them.

We at ICAPP and CAPDI are proposing shelving the issue of sovereignty and instead engage in joint development and equitable sharing of profits from oil and gas, and convert Zones of Conflict into Zones of Peace, Friendship and Development in the China Sea.

By its very nature, our Council’s work must be informal and low-key. Its authority will depend on the thoughtfulness and fairness of its advice; and its effectiveness on the sincerity of the aid it offers to the contending parties.

Now let me turn briefly to peacemaking in the Korean Peninsula.

Ideological differences shouldn&rsquot get in the way

Here, in Northeast Asia, we need to develop pragmatic and creative methods that will rebuild North-South relations—without allowing ideological differences to get in the way.

My interest in such an outcome is personal as well as professional—because my earliest voluntary errands in Philippine foreign policy involved North Korea. In 1990, I visited Pyongyang as acting Chairman of the House Committee on Forein Relations, in an informal effort to open diplomatic relations with North Korea—to prevent it from giving material and moral support to the ‘New People’s Army’ guerrillas of our Maoist Communist Party.

This was at a time Pyongyang itself was also trying to broaden its East Asian friendships; and I met with the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung.

Despite his forbidding reputation, I found Kim Il Sung widely and keenly interested in the outside world: our appointment of ten minutes stretched to more than one hour.

When I inquired naively into the possibility of another war on the Peninsula, he dismissed the liability outright. Conflict would be foolish—he said emphatically—it would only cause mutual destruction in both North and South Korea that neither side could afford to suffer. When the sounds of war threaten in the Korean Peninsula, I remember those words of practical wisdom from the late Kim Il Sung.

Kim Il Sung promised readily and put in writing not to give aid and comfort to our NPA guerrillas—who had, by then, been fighting to overthrow the Philippine State for two decades. And on my invitation, he sent after a few months, his Deputy Premier Kim Dahl Hyun to Manila to finalize the agreement with our then Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus, which resulted in diplomatic relations. Through thick and thin, that agreement has kept our two states friendly and cooperative until now. I have sine turned over to then President Corazon Aquino the North Korean document signed by North Korean Deputy Premier Kim Dahl Hyon committing the North Korean Government not to give aid and comfort to the rebel Philippine New People’s Army.

Two Koreas should adapt to global changes

Despite the harsh rhetoric on both sides of the 38th Parallel, I believe global civil society must encourage direct talks between Seoul and Pyongyang.

As we know, direct talks have re-started between Washington and Pyongyang—in New York and Geneva.

Direct talks between North and South will complement these high-level explorations. Perhaps they could even catalyze the Six-Power Talks to prevent nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula. Direct talks could even lead to agreement on a road map to eventual unification.

The basic fact is that the distribution of power in the world is fast-changing – particularly in East Asia – and the Korean Peninsula must adapt to these epochal transformations. Consider how even once-hermetic Myanmar is shifting in its internal politics and foreign relations.

Vietnam emerged from three difficult successive wars, winning against great powers, and its socialist government, adopting a market economy, lifted its people from poverty to become today a rising peaceful economic power. Like China and Vietnam, North Korea can also be like which is already emerging as a power in Southeast Asia.


Perhaps the two Koreas should begin with some degree of economic cooperation. And the obvious way would be for Pyongyang to be invited to associate itself with the East Asian Economic Grouping of the 10 Southeast Asian states and the 3 Northeast Asian states – China, Japan and South Korea. The ASEAN Plus 3 could become ASEAN Plus 4.

North Korea should not be left alone and isolated as we push for political and economic integration in Asia.

In my view, the immediate task of the mainstream parties of the Republic of Korea and the Korean Workers’ Party of the North is to draw up a road map toward unification. The Global Peace Foundation, CAPDI, ICAPP, and the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council, as we discussed with the Foundation’s Vice-President David Caprara, should network with the leading think-tanks of the U.S., Asia, and Europe to perhaps envision the architecture of Korean confederation and unification, revive the Kim Dae Jung “Sunshine Policy”, promote a bipartisan approach among the major parties of the South, and draw on South Korea’s proven economic power, to help build the economy of the North under an economic confederation of Korean Unity.

The Asian, European, and U.S. parliaments should send delegations to the North Korea legislature, their Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism, might interact with their North Korean counterparts to look into the recurring causes of famine in the North and to develop jobs-creating and foreign exchange-earning tourism. The great Northeast Asia, Western and Russian industries can look into North Korea’s hydrocarbons, mining, and hydro-electric potential. The 6-Nation Talks could have a business-focused auxiliary to develop economic joint-ventures.

Centenary of Kim Il sung

This coming year – the birth centenary of President Kim Il Sung – can become the occasion for the beginnings of Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

At the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council – in CAPDI and ICAPP and today, the Global Peace Foundation, in the Parliamentary Roundtable that we have scheduled here, our focus should be on how we can serve as a bridge between North and South Korea – just as we have been able to contribute our small share to the parties in Nepal, how CAPDI Chairman, former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla negotiated the successful Peace Agreement in Aceh, Indonesia, how CAPDI Chairman Emeritus, Premier Hun Sen, united the Cambodian Armed Forces and built a united Cambodian Government, and how in all humility, then President Ramos and I forged the two peace agreements with the Philippine military rebels and a second pact with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), though the current talks with the largest separatist Muslim group is a little bit more difficult, and how East Timor leaders, President Jose Ramos Horta and Premier Xanana Gusmao, and Indonesian President  Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono forged a final and enduring peace between East Timor and Indonesia after bitter and violent clashes in the war of Timorese independence.

Today, we at the Global Peace Foundation, ICAPP and CAPDI seek humble, simple solutions to the gravest threats confronting mankind which include poverty, war, and environmental degradation.

We stand against political extremism in every form. We seek reconciliation in Asia’s conflict zones – from the Koreas to the Taiwan Straits – from the Spratlys to the Paracels to the  Senkaku Straits, from Mindanao through Southern Thailand to Nepal – from Kashmir and Afghanistan to Iraq and Palestine – and from Chechnya to the Caucusus.

Together, we at the Global Peace Foundation, ICAPP and CAPDI urge instead the negotiated settlement of conflicts within and between nations and propose creative and practical approaches to their solution.

Toward the Asian century

The Asian Development Bank holds out the hope that the twenty-first century will be the ‘Asian Century.’ And it is true that Asia’s growth trajectory puts in on track to become the global center of gravity by 2050. Some three billion Asians now mired in deprivation would become affluent by today’s standards. Asia as a whole would regain the leading global economic position it had held some 250 years ago before the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

But our internal conflicts – if they should continue – can frustrate this hope. So our greatest need is for our entire Continent to rise above its conflicts. And it is the hope that the Global Peace Foundation and our networks for peace—together—perhaps even in the most modest way can help move Asia toward this goal that animates us all, for at the Foundation, we have a simple, uncomplicated central article of faith: “We belong to one human family under God.”

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