SHII’s Interview on 9th General Assembly of ICAPP in Kuala Lumpur
The 9th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) held in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur ended on September 3 after adopting the Kuala Lumpur Declaration. In the final vote, the delegation of the Japanese Communist Party expressed reservations concerning a part of the declaration dealing with the issue of nuclear weapons.
JCP Chair Shii Kazuo who led the JCP delegation to the Assembly talked about what happened at the conference which was attended by representatives of 87 political parties from 35 Asian countries and the JCP’s contributions.
[The ICAPP is a very unique forum where political parties in Asia, both ruling and opposition parties, gather to discuss “peace and cooperation” in the region and the rest of the world by putting aside ideological differences. The Japanese Communist Party has taken part in all ICAPP General Assembly sessions since the 2nd meeting was held in 2002 in Bangkok, Thailand. Mr. Shii’s first attendance was in 2006 when the 4th General Assembly took place in Seoul and this is his 5th time to attend the General Assembly.]
International disputes should be resolved peacefully based on international law
Q: Your speech in the General Assembly was titled, “How to Create a Peaceful East Asia and a World Without Nuclear Weapons.”
Shii: In my speech, while noting the regional framework of peace and cooperation which ASEAN nations have established based on the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), I pointed out that positive efforts to solve various pressing issues are tenaciously undertaken by the ASEAN member states.
Regarding the South China Sea issues, I welcomed the joint communique of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting held in July which calls for the peaceful resolution of disputes “including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes” in accordance with “international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”. I expressed my anticipation to the achievement of forward-looking settlements. This joint communique carries an important message which is based on the latest International Court of Arbitration ruling rejecting China’s claims on the South China Sea issues.
Concerning Northeast Asia, I explained an initiative for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia which we proposed at the 26th JCP Congress.
Then, I put stress on two points which we believe are common among all East Asian nations.
Firstly, all parties concerned should stick firmly to the stance seeking a diplomatic and peaceful solution to any problems without going into a dangerous vicious cycle where a military response may lead to another military response.
Secondly, in settling territorial disputes, all parties concerned should strictly abide by international law and refrain from activities which could escalate those disputes, such as forcible changes in the status quo, use of arms, and threat by force.
Immediately start the negotiation for Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC)
Q: In regard to the nuclear weapons issue, what did you stress in your speech?
Shii: In this field, epoch-making progress is being made in the international political arena. The UN Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament (OEWG) in August adopted a report advising the UN General Assembly to launch negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention by the end of next year. The ICAPP in its past General Assembly meetings repeatedly called for the start of the international negotiations for the convention. Citing these facts, I said, “From here, Kuala Lumpur, let us again call on the international community to immediately launch negotiations on a convention to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
Q: How was the response to your speech?
Shii: My speech was well received by many participants as a relevant contribution to the focus of discussions in the General Assembly. I mentioned the need for “peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international laws” and “a nuclear weapons convention”. These two points became the key issues in discussions over the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration”. I will get back to this topic later.
Commenting on my speech, ICAPP Secretary General Chung Eui-yong told me that it dealt with the core issues that Asian countries are facing.
Malaysian state news agency, Bernama, expressed interest in my remarks on the JCP proposal for an “initiative for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia”. On the sidelines of the Assembly meeting, I accepted an interview request from Bernama reporters.
‘Partial reservations’ voiced on Declaration over nuclear weapons issue
Q: What about your reaction to the adopted declaration?
Shii: Well, to get straight to the point, in adopting a draft declaration, our delegation expressed reservations concerning the part where the issue of nuclear weapons is touched upon.
One reason was that a sentence which calls for “a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention” was deleted from the final text of Kuala Lumpur Declaration. Both the Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Colombo (Sri Lanka) Declarations incorporated this demand in 2010 and 2014, respectively, in response to the earnest call by the majority of UN member states and civil society.
The deletion of such an important demand from the Declaration, though repeatedly confirmed in preceding ICAPP general assemblies, is a serious setback. I find it very regrettable. Therefore, we notified the chairpersons of our disappointment regarding this omission from the Declaration.
JCP proposal welcomed amid twists and turns of ‘Declaration’
Q: Could you tell us about your activities during the process of adopting the Declaration?
Shii: First of all, prior to the 9th General Assembly, the JCP submitted to the ICAPP Secretariat a three-point proposal in writing to be included in a declaration: abolition of nuclear weapons; creation of a regional framework for peace and cooperation; and eradication of international terrorism. Regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons, we focused on spelling out in a declaration the call for the immediate commencement of NWC negotiations. This proposal received favorable feedback from the ICAPP Secretary General.
Amendments raised on nuclear weapons and international law
Q: What actually happened after the General Assembly started?
Shii: On September 2, the first day of the meeting, we read a draft declaration which clearly stated support for the start of international negotiations on an NWC.
However, the actual draft delivered later to attendees mentioned nothing on an NWC. It did not even refer to the reasonable demand that territorial disputes be settled based on international law. Several members participating in the Drafting Committee told us that the delegation of the Communist Party of China expressed concerns about employing the JCP proposal. In addition, we found out that the CPC delegation was also strongly opposed to including in the declaration a call for resolution of territorial disputes in accordance with international law.
So, we urgently made our suggestions for amendments to the draft declaration and offered it to the assembly. In the amendments we requested to add a phrase, “we call for a prompt start on a NWC negotiations,” and insert the following words “on the basis of international law” in making efforts to settle territorial issues.
Two rounds of talks with CPC delegation
Q: Toward these two amendments, the CPC delegation had a negative attitude and you became aware of it. Is that right?
Shii: Yes. So, we thought we should meet with the CPC delegation face-to-face.
The basic concept I had in mind was the 2008 talks held between CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao and myself in Tokyo. There, we agreed on bilateral cooperation at international forums regarding issues like the global abolition of nuclear weapons. In light of this agreement, I thought the JCP delegation had to discuss the issue with the CPC delegation. So, the deputy leader of the JCP delegation Ogata Yasuo, a JCP vice chairman, met with the head of the CPC delegation Li Jun, assistant minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPC (IDCPC), to ask for cooperation.
However, Mr. Li rejected our suggested amendments by saying that shorter was better and insisting on keeping the draft declaration as it was. Mr. Ogata said, “In the past two ICAPP general assemblies, you gave approval to exactly the same wording which was unanimously adopted. So, there shouldn’t be any problem.” Mr. Li responded that he was not familiar with past declarations and that adding such a sentence to the declaration could possibly be used for propaganda to assert that aggressor Japan in World War II was the victim. He reiterated this argument without clearly explaining why they were against any reference to a call for an NWC.
Mr. Ogata told me what happened at the meeting. So, I took into account the seriousness of the situation and decided to ask the CPC delegation for another meeting. Then, in the second meeting, Mr. Ogata asked Mr. Li to explain the reason for his refusal of supporting the inclusion of our amendments. This time, Mr. Li withdrew his remarks about “propaganda claiming Japan was the victim,” but he kept refusing to endorse the amendments.
Q: What was the reason for the CPC delegation to reject the JCP proposal of amendment to the draft declaration?
Shii: They didn’t present any clear reason for their rejection. Mr. Ogata said to Mr. Li, “China used to call for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. So, why are you against it now?” Without answering Ogata’s question, he dismissed Ogata as “being a hegemonist and imposing his opinion on others.” Mr. Ogata said, “You missed the point. We are talking. If this is not discussion, then, what is a discussion?”
Q: They took a confrontational attitude, didn’t they?
Shii: To attack those who have a different opinion by insulting them with the word “hegemonist” is very rude.
Drafting Committee unanimously approved JCP’s amendment proposal
Q: How did the Drafting Committee deal with the JCP’s revision proposal?
Shii: Considering the CPC delegation’s stance, we thought that the Drafting Committee would not accept the JCP’s proposal for the amendment to the draft declaration.
However, the situation changed. The CPC delegation apparently changed its attitude after the talks with the JCP. At the Drafting Committee held on the evening of September 2, when the ICAPP Secretary General conveyed the JCP-proposed two amendments to the draft declaration, no one, including the CPC delegation, voiced an objection, and the JCP-proposed amendments were unanimously approved.
On the afternoon of September 3, the final day of the Assembly, copies of the draft declaration were distributed to all the participants. It stated as follows:
“[W]e supported the efforts in the international community to accomplish the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and called for a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, as proposed by U.S. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.”
The draft also stated that territorial issues should be resolved “in accordance with international law.”
When reading this draft declaration, all JCP delegation members felt relieved.
Peripeteia – deletion of NWC just before adoption
Q: But, a sudden change came about, didn’t it?
Shii: Yes. At the final stage, the situation suddenly changed. Just before the closing session began, ICAPP Secretary General Chung explained to us the situation that developed. According to him, an unnamed delegation suddenly demanded the deletion of the wording, “a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention”. In order for a consensus to be achieved, he said, the ICAPP chairs had to accept this demand.
I raised an objection to him because it is totally unfair that ‘some unnamed delegation’ can bring about a change to the decision after the Drafting Committee unanimously agreed upon the final text of the declaration.
Prior to the closing session, copies of the new draft declaration were distributed from which the phrase, “called for a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention” was deleted. So, this draft lacks the most important point.
Secretary General Chung only mentioned “some delegation”. However, looking back the course of events, it is obvious that the unnamed delegation was the CPC delegation. The CPC delegation agreed on the inclusion of the phrase, “a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention”, at the Drafting Committee meeting, but it changed its mind just before the final adoption.
Q: The process is unreasonable in light of democratic procedural rules at international conferences, isn’t it?
Shii: Yes, it is. In response to this turn of events, the JCP drew up a document which expresses “partial reservation” regarding the draft declaration and voiced protest against the undemocratic steering in the ICAPP general assembly caused by the CPC delegation. We submitted the document to the chairpersons’ group. In the document, we stated, “The behavior of this delegation who suddenly demanded the change of the agreed text just before its adoption is the most unreasonable and high-handed. We lodge strong protest against this undemocratic steering of the process of Assembly caused by the delegation.”
ICAPP Secretary General Chung in his final report to the General Assembly said, “Some delegations after the adoption of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration expressed their partial reservations.” He officially admitted that the Kuala Lumpur Declaration failed to obtain unanimous consent in its adoption.
‘Forcing dishes cooked behind kitchen on other participants’
Q: How did other participants see this situation?
Shii: A delegation participating in the Drafting Committee criticized the CPC delegation by saying as follows: “As the CPC delegation had no confidence to state its opinion before other delegates, it acted as if forcing dishes on others cooked behind the kitchen. Such tactics are absolutely intolerable.”
Resorting to such a high-handed tactic and neglecting the democratic steering of the general assembly, the CPC delegation forced the organizer to delete the important call from the draft declaration and caused a serious setback in the ICAPP’s achievements.
Things revealed at the ICAPP General Assembly
Profound change in China’s stance on nuclear weapons issue
Q: What do you think is the root cause of the CPC delegation’s action?
Shii: Until some point in the past, China called for international negotiations on an NWC. However, Beijing’s attitude has changed in the last few years. A remarkable change was revealed in autumn of last year when the UNGA adopted a resolution to set up the OEWG to discuss legal approaches to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
Then the five nuclear weapons states, or P5 (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States) stubbornly opposed the resolution. At the time, an overwhelming majority of countries in the global community began taking action in support of an NWC, but China joined the move opposing the general trend. The CPC delegation’s conduct reflects this change in Beijing’s stance.
Until recently, despite being a member of the P5, China did not have to express its opposition to an NWC because the other nuclear powers spoke for China. At the ICAPP General Assembly, however, China had no choice but to drop its mask, because other P5 nations such as Britain, France, and the U.S. did not attend the meeting. Thus, China’s objection to an NWC was brought to light at the General Assembly.
China is no longer on side of advocates of peace and progress
Q: This event at the ICAPP meeting is serious in various respects, isn’t it?
Shii: That’s right. Through my experiences at the ICAPP General Assembly, I have to point out three issues.
First, at least with regard to the nuclear weapons issue, we can no longer say that China is on the side of advocates of peace and progress. As one of the nuclear weapons states, they are working to thwart global efforts for a nuclear weapons-free world. This is the position being taken by China.
Second, in order to push through its own claim, the CPC delegation trampled upon the democratic steering of an international meeting, the ICAPP General Assembly. In the final moments of the assembly, they unilaterally overturned what the Drafting Committee had unanimously approved. This has to be considered none other than hegemonistic behavior.
Third, the CPC delegation’s action poses a serious problem for the continued relationship between the CPC and the JCP. Although the JCP delegation sincerely asked the CPC delegation for a discussion concerning the draft declaration and the CPC’s support for the JCP proposal of amendment to the draft, they rejected our proposal without showing any reason and even called us a “hegemonist” in the end. Such a rude attitude is in contradiction to the principle of our relationship which was confirmed between the two parties.
Future is on side of public opinion and civic movements for abolition of nuclear weapons
Shii: From a broader perspective, forces clinging to nuclear arms are being backed into a corner by international public opinion and the majority of UN member nations seeking a start of negotiations on an NWC.
With the recent recommendation made by the OEWG of the UN, it has become an actual focal point whether international negotiations over an NWC will commence next year. From this year to next year, the world is moving in support of an NWC. This is an epoch-making move.
Driven into a corner by international public opinion seeking peace, the pro-nuclear-weapons forces are increasingly showing their true colors. The latest turn of events at the ICAPP General Assembly is an example of their obstructionist stance.
The future is on the side of international public opinion and civil societies demanding a world free of nuclear weapons. Having confidence in this, the JCP will do its part to help create a peaceful world.