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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Peace/Disarmament
  • 2010.11.23
  • 2215

The workshop started with the welcoming address by the President of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, one of the organizers of the workshop. The subsequent first session of the workshop provided the participants with expert analyses of the security policies of four major states of the Asia-Pacific, namely the United States, Japan, China and Republic of Korea. The second session was an overview of the civil solidarity for disarmament and peace in the region followed by discussion. This paper is a commentary on the first session of the workshop as I could not sit through the whole second session and had to leave in the middle of discussion at the end.

The first session was titled “Security Policies and Civil Priorities in the Asia-Pacific Region”. The session included papers presented by experts and brief interaction at the end of the session. The papers offered expert analysis of security policies of the four Asia-Pacific states but to most extent, I observed, they failed to indicate areas for civil actions in the security policies of the states.

Mr. John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) analyzed the evolving Pentagon strategy very well while presenting his paper on US Military Strategy in Asia. The perils of cooperation with the US for the Asian allies that he stated was accurate and well observed that a different kind of cooperation was in cards for the allies that will have to spend more on their defense expenses to compensate the US deficit in the wake of the recent economic crisis. The paper, however, was only limited to an expert briefing on the Pentagon strategy with little civil priorities for controlling the security sector – only six lines at the end of the paper, to be precise.

Mr. Akira Kawasaki from the Peace Boat brilliantly criticized the Japanese security policy for its cold war perspective and provided very useful recommendations for shifting security arrangements in the region. The paper disapproving of the provision of new roles for the military in Japanese “pacifism” cautioned about the rise of a new “cold war” in Asia against China. His recommendations started with an encouraging note of possibility for engagement by civil society in Japan (or Japan-US) security relations. However, the recommendations again failed short of providing specific civil priorities for such engagement with only some vague ideas. The only specific recommendation for civil involvement was provided in the last paragraph to contribute to “non-traditional security”, relating to such issues as crime, piracy, pandemics, disasters and climate change, without relying on national military forces.

Mr. Taeho Lee of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, in the view of recent Cheonan incident, compared the military and security strategy of South Korea before and after the incident. He was very appropriately critical of the current administration for its military strategy and arms build-up that go far beyond the rational level. In the booklet provided, he provided two papers – the second paper read more useful to me with its recommendations for state as well as civil actions. This, I found to be the only paper in the first session that included several specific recommendations for civil drive for disarmament in the region, from national to regional campaigns. He even went so far as to propose a specific regional project to publish an alternative civil white paper vis-à-vis white papers presented by the state. I observe this to be a very fruitful exercise if it can be undertaken at the regional level as Mr. Lee put forward.  
 
The last paper presented by Ms. Hua Han from the Beijing University largely defended the Chinese Security Policy in the Asia-Pacific region and perhaps, rightly so. Her talk was mainly indication of Chinese discontent towards the views of other states that projects China and its security mechanisms (that as per Ms. Han are mainly for defensive and peaceful growth purposes) as a regional and global threat. This, she sought to prove, by comparing the security priorities of China and the US. However, while other papers at least even mentioned the term “civil society”, her paper and her talk totally omitted it. This, I think, reflects the absence of vibrant civil society in the country (as one of the questions put to the expert state).

Even the following interaction, mainly among the experts, focused mainly on analyzing security issues and policies of other states rather than discussing areas of civil engagement with the states in amendments of those policies towards peace and disarmament in the region. I agree that it is necessary to have a complete and critical analysis of state security policies to look for avenues for civil actions in those policies. However, I felt that even after sufficient examination into the security issues of the states, the experts interactions was limited to there and that while discussions of disputes (territorial and others that states focus on when they draw their security policies) largely followed.

In a nutshell, I comment that the first session provided us an Asia-Pacific regional picture of security issues, states policies towards them and “challenges” (historical, economic and territorial disputes) that the states state of (or overstate) to overcome such irrational policies. In the course, the session could not sufficiently explore the civil priorities for engaging in those security policies among the experts. A session of such caliber, I felt, could have followed an interaction solely focused on delving into issues for civilian actions in those security policies. Perhaps a roundtable of experts on each others’ recommendations or maybe Mr. Lee’s proposal could have provided some concrete results for regional civilian cooperation for peace and disarmament campaign.

This could have been strengthened by inputs from the participants, which I considered, was there mainly for learning than strategic purposes. So, diversifying the nature of participants, perhaps more representatives of like-minded organizations, could have been more useful who could share their own experiences of their similar campaigns to enrich such examination of avenues of civilian engagement in state security policies for a peaceful and disarmed Asia-Pacific region. The sharing of experiences was to some extent accomplished in the second session in which I opine that the international expert organization present there, International Peace Bureau (IPB ) could have contributed more with international experiences.

Nevertheless, I expect this workshop to be only a step towards cooperation among regional civil society actors to network further and in the long run present a joint campaign for working towards the peaceful region.

Due to time limitations, I will have to finish my comments here.


By Probin, SungKongHoe University
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    the whole second session and had to leave in the middle of discussion at the end.
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