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Peace, prosperity and disaster management

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By Andy McElroy

SEOUL, 29 April 2014 – Cooperation in disaster management is a key element of building peace and prosperity in North-East Asia, a high-level regional conference has been told.

The International Forum for Trilateral Cooperation between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea –collectively home to 22 percent of the world’s population and responsible for 20 percent of global trade volume – heard that disaster management represented a “key area” of progress in regional relations.

Speaking at a Forum meeting this month, the Secretary-General of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, Ambassador Iwatani Shigeo, hailed the strengthening of partnership in disaster management since a ministerial level meeting in October 2013.

“Our three countries have pushed forward trilateral cooperation in a number of key areas (including disaster management) despite bilateral political difficulties,” Ambassador Iwatani said.

“The main challenge … is how to promote the vision of trilateral cooperation at a time when our region is fraught with political and strategic uncertainties … The Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat has been pursuing a common agenda for the three countries, by engaging in active diplomacy, undertaking joint initiatives on issues ranging from trilateral free trade agreements to disaster management.”

The former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Mr Kim Sung-hwan, highlighted the annual table-top disaster exercise scenario as one clear and practical example of trilateral cooperation. He also echoed the theme of cooperation in disaster management acting as a catalyst for deeper partnership in other areas across North-East Asia.

“By cooperating in various fields … we can ease tensions and gradually get closer to build up trust. Natural disasters, climate change … are some of the areas in which we can achieve tangible outcomes relatively easy,” Mr Kim said.

The President of the China Foreign Affairs University, Ambassador Zhao Jinjun, urged the region to “adhere to the path of green development and promote cooperation on energy and environmental protection”.

The October 2013 Trilateral Joint Statement on Disaster Management Cooperation committed to “enhance the three countries’ cooperation in international and regional conferences on disaster management held in each country, including the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction”.

UNISDR’s 2013 Global Assessment Report – entitled the Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction –highlighted the “soft underbelly” of the spectacular development across North-East Asia over recent decades in that many economic, social and environmental assets exist on hazard-exposed coastlines and river basins.

The Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat was established in September 2011 and is based in Seoul and funded equally by the governments of China, Japan, and Republic of Korea.