Jun 9, 2006

Asia-Pacific islands seek warmer ties

Jean Lin
Taipei Times

June 9, 2006

REGIONAL MEETING: Twenty-two countries are taking part in the Asia-Pacific Island Nations Summit, discussing issues such as peace-building

The second Asia-Pacific Island Nations Summit was launched yesterday in Taipei with the aim of strengthening cooperation between island countries, especially in light of pressure from "major powers" in the region.

The conference is being held by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a non-governmental organization (NGO) with special consultative status to the UN's Economic and Social Council.

The group aims to resolve conflicts and promote international peace.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who is also chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, a sponsor of the event, said during a keynote speech that the Asia-Pacific region was well-known for its rapid economic development, which has influenced the world.

However, with Taiwan's cross-strait issues and North Korea's nuclear threat, the stability of the region, as well as world peace, is deeply affected, Wang said.

"The government must incorporate NGOs, religious groups and other sources of civic power to achieve the goal of world peace," he said.

Johnson Toribiong, Palau's ambassador to Taiwan, said that Asia-Pacific island nations had many things in common, including having lived through World War II and colonization, and therefore understand the importance of regional peace.

"We must encourage and promote mutual understanding of our island nations through education and international conferences," Toribiong said. "Ignorance creates conflicts."

Thomas Walsh, the secretary-general of UPF International, said that NGOs have an advantage in promoting peace since they can take action more quickly than governments, which are bogged down by bureaucracy.

Chen Tou-huan, the secretary-general of UPF Taiwan said that Asia-Pacific island nations play an important role in the world, and the goal of the summit was to increase cooperation and establish peace and stability in the region.

Some powerful countries in the region care only about their own interests, creating instability for the whole area, Chen said.

Lily Lin, vice-president of the Women's Federation for World Peace Taiwan, said that China had been trying to penetrate and influence island nations in the area.

Taiwan, Japan and other countries must build strong relations to fight such a power, Lin said.

China should not be an enemy to the US, the other major power in the region, said Mark Barry, director of the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative.

"US policies should guide China to become a responsible major power and not just a self-interested country," Barry said.

Some of the issues to be discussed at the summit are interreligious cooperation, reconciliation and peace-building, as well as how to strengthen the community of Asia-Pacific island nations. Twenty-two nations are participating in the summit, which ends today.