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Congratulatory speech by President Park Geun-hye at the 2013 IFANS Conference on Global Affairs

Congratulatory speech by President Park Geun-hye at the 2013 IFANS Conference on Global Affairs held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to meet all of you who are present here to discuss peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia. This is a time when regional peace and stability are more important than ever before as the region lies in the vortex of the turbulent global order of today.

It is all the more meaningful to hold an international conference on the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, the cradle of Korea's foreign policies over the past half century.

In the years of Cold War rivalry, KNDA contributed to working out a new breakthrough with the Northward Diplomacy. It also served as a center to put together ideas on issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula and the international community through various channels for strategic dialogue with other leading global institutes. As of late, KNDA has become the first to hold a three-way strategic dialogue with the United States and China.

The institute has produced numerous diplomatic strategists, in addition to being a center of hard training for many diplomats who are working in challenging environments around the world in the interest of our country. In a nutshell, it has been the birthplace of elite diplomats.

I hope today's conference held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of KNDA will serve as an invaluable steppingstone in opening a new era of peace and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When it comes to foreign affairs and security, the Korean Peninsula has been evaluated as a region surrounded by the most complicated geopolitical circumstances in the world. If we could change those circumstances in a direction that could help usher in a new future, however, I believe it would go a long way toward promoting peace and prosperity in the region. This is because the Korean Peninsula sits at the crucial intersection where the Eurasian continent meets the Asia Pacific.

In the course of overcoming disadvantages stemming from territorial division and other geopolitical factors, Korea emerged as the world's 8th largest trading power with trade amounting to over US$1 trillion.

Northeast Asia, to which Korea belongs, is now establishing itself as the most dynamic region that spearheads the growth of the world economy, leaving behind a legacy as a land of war and poverty from the end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century. The region also has potential to emerge as the largest global economic bloc in the near future. If Northeast Asia could become a single market similar to the European Union, it would present us with enormous opportunities.

We all have a clear understanding of how enormous the potential for peace and collaboration among nations in Northeast Asia could be and how significant it is for the sake of the world. Notwithstanding such a huge potential, the political and security-related reality in the region is of no help in backing up regional integration but is rather a stumbling block. Even at this moment, tensions continue in the region. The danger of a military collision exists as always.

First and foremost, amidst the division of the Korean Peninsula for almost 70 years, North Korea is giving rise to tensions with its nuclear development program. Distrust among nations is likely to deepen because of divergent views of history, and the possibility of conflicts and confrontations with regards to territorial issues is also on the rise.

These all indicate a situation that can be dubbed "Asia's paradox."

At this critical juncture, we need to overcome this situation of potential crisis and turn Northeast Asia into a place of trust and cooperation. If we remember that the prosperity we enjoy today was made possible with sincere efforts of all nations in the region over the past half a century, we should never miss the opportunities given to us because of lingering confrontation and distrust.

In modern history, Europe suffered pain because of large-scale wars. However, countries in the region renewed themselves with self-reflection and a sense of coexistence and embarked on coal and steel trade, which served as the basis for the birth of the European Union. During the Cold War era, the eastern and western sides expanded cooperation by easing tensions and confrontations through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This European experience provides nations in Northeast Asia with numerous lessons.

With the launch of my Administration, I proposed a plan to transform Northeast Asia into a place marked by trust and cooperation. I called it the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative.

The vision behind this initiative is for the countries of Northeast Asia to begin with small but meaningful cooperation, steadily carrying out practices that build mutual confidence until such practices can spread, easing mistrust and divisions. From nuclear safety and climate change to disaster relief, cyber security cooperation and prevention of money laundering, countries can address the softer issues first as they engage in continued dialogue and cooperation that gradually expand in scope. Ultimately, as such progress continues, the region can arrive—as Europe once did—at a point where even the most sensitive of issues can be discussed together.

Over the past nine months, the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative has won a great deal of international support and been welcomed by numerous world leaders. I now ask all of you to also take action for the sake of peace, prosperity and cooperation in the region.

For peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia, I believe that it is necessary first for countries within the region to reach a common understanding about the future. Without a shared goal, even the smallest differences are impossible to overcome. But if our goal is the same, we will be able to put these differences behind us. For example, if countries in Northeast Asia can work together—as Germany did with France as well as with Poland—to produce joint history textbooks, this would be a means to practice cooperation and dialogue similar to that which took place between Eastern and Western Europe. Along the way, the day may come when the wall built between us by the problems of history, problems from which our tension and mistrust have sprung, is torn down.

I hope that all of you will put your heads together to formulate a blueprint for the future of Northeast Asia, one that we can all look forward to and share.

For peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia, the region must also become a place of openness. The countries in Northeast Asia must not merely become a league for themselves but stand as a part of the world. We must work side by side with the rest of the world and contribute to global peace and development. This will be the key to sustained growth in our region as well.

Further, the tensions and divisions within the region must be resolved in every respect by peaceful methods alone. Military force must never again be mobilized in this region as it was until the middle of the last century. By making clear the objectives of our respective polices and carrying out various measures to build trust among our countries, we must prevent the possibility of military disputes. The culture of cooperation that takes form within Northeast Asia will become an important part of how we respond to security threats, including the pressing North Korean nuclear issue.

Distinguished guests,

Many young people sit among us today. For them, the resolution of Asia's paradox and the realization of Northeast Asia's potential will mean a vast array of new opportunities. They will be able to cross borders and interact with one another, contributing as much as their hearts desire to growth and cultural enrichment around the world.

This is the very dream I aspire to realize: to make Northeast Asia a zone of peace and cooperation and further extend this cooperation to the Eurasian continent and the Pacific region. In doing so, it will become possible to create a new network for economic cooperation based on the connection between APEC in the Asia Pacific and ASEM in Asia and Europe.

May this global conference held at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy be a valuable opportunity to seek the means to bring peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia and to draw closer to a new future.

Thank you very much.

Government Press Release on November 14, 2013

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