The 8th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on September 18-20. The conference unanimously adopted the Colombo Declaration, hoping to expand regional cooperation for peace to a Pan-Asian level as well as calling for a prompt start of negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention. The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) shares this aspiration. The newspaper AKAHATA interviewed Mr. Kazuo Shii, who led the party's delegation to the assembly. He is Chairperson of the party and Member of the House of Representatives.
Q: How do you see the outcome of the assembly?
Mr. Shii: It was highly significant.
As for the ICAPP itself, it has developed itself as a unique forum open to all political parties in Asia from across the ideological spectrum. The main theme of the 8th General Assembly was "Building an Asian Community."
The assembly had a large attendance of 75 political parties from 29 countries. In addition, international organizations took part as observers, including the Permanent Conference of Political Parties in Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL), the Council of African Political Parties (CAPP), and the United Nations (UN). Participants from Japan were from the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party.
I think the declaration adopted has great value especially pertaining to two crucial issues.
First, the declaration expressed its hope that such frameworks of regional cooperation and integration as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) among ASEAN members will ultimately be applicable at an all-inclusive pan-Asian level. Obviously, Northeast Asia will be included. As the Japanese Communist Party has proposed an Initiative for Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia, the declaration of the ICAPP and our policy line share common ground on this point. This is very encouraging for us.
Second, the declaration called for a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, as proposed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
As I said, the declaration was unanimously adopted, which means it gained the support of all participating parties, regardless of whether they are governing or not. This is a hopeful sign for civil societies in Japan and elsewhere working for a world without nuclear weapons.
Q: What did you speak about at the ICAPP meeting?
Shii: I spoke on two topics in line with the meeting's main theme "Building an Asian Community". Taking ICAPP objectives into account, I chose topics that can gain support from all political parties, regardless of differences in political beliefs.
The first topic was on "Building an Asian Community", the very theme of the ICAPP meeting.
Already in many parts of Asia, regional frameworks for peace and cooperation have been developing in various forms.
In Southeast Asia, for example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is remarkably developing as a peaceful regional community. In South Asia and Central Asia as well, there are regional frameworks for peace and cooperation suitable for their respective conditions and circumstances. In Northeast Asia, however, no such a framework exists. Unlike other regions, this region does not have an institutional means of resolving issues in a peaceful manner despite the dangers arising from regional conflicts and tensions.
Therefore, the JCP in its 26th Congress in January called for an initiative to establish a framework for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia. In other words, we proposed that something like the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) of the ASEAN be created also in Northeast Asia.
In my ICAPP speech, I said that we need to pay attention to the various frameworks for peace and cooperation being built in many parts of Asia and presented the JCP's vision of creating a structure for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.
I said, "Creating and developing regional frameworks for peace and cooperation in various parts in Asia and finally extending it to a pan-Asian level is a task that should concern us all. Let's make a collective effort to build an Asian community for peace, amity, cooperation and prosperity."
When I say "an Asian community", I do not mean that a single community should be established in one stroke because conditions vary from region to region. I called for further developing the regional frameworks for peace and cooperation which already exist in many areas of Asia in various forms, creating a similar mechanism in Northeast Asia, and merging them into "a pan-Asian community".
Q: The second subject of your speech was creating "a world without nuclear weapons."
Shii: That's right. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the tragic atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will also take place in New York next year for the first time in five years. In the hope of making 2015 a major turning point to realize a nuclear-weapons-free world, I chose it as the other main focus of my speech.
Taking into consideration the character of the ICAPP, I highlighted the following two points so that all participating parties can share a common ground.
First, I called for moving forward based on the achievement of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, confirmed by the international community, including nuclear-weapon states. The final document of the 2010 Conference states, "All States need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons." What I emphasized was that all parties can work together to promote these efforts.
Secondly, I noted that there is a growing international consensus seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons and pointing to those weapons' inhumanity and cruelty. Nuclear weapons are inhumane arms, and the only way to prevent such weapons from being used again is to eliminate them totally. Regardless of differences in political positions, nobody can refute this argument.
Based on the above two points, I called on participants to appeal to the global community to promptly start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention.
Q: Please tell us about the Colombo Declaration, adopted at the General Assembly.
Shii: The declaration is highly significant, contributing to peace and progress in Asia and beyond.
On building an Asian community, the declaration states, "We expressed our hope that such frameworks of regional cooperation and integration like TAC among ASEAN members … will be formed in other parts of our region, and will ultimately be applicable at an all-inclusive pan-Asian level."
If we try to create regional frameworks like TAC in other parts of Asia, it will lead us to establishing a community for peace in Northeast Asia as well. I was pleased to see the ICAPP declaration and the JCP's initiative sharing this common direction for regional cooperation for peace.
Q: Regarding the issue of banning nuclear weapons, what the Colombo Declaration states is encouraging.
Shii: Yes, it is. As for the issue of banning nuclear weapons, the Colombo Declaration states:
"We also reiterated the need to implement an unequivocal undertaking to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons agreed by nuclear weapon states at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 2010, and called for a prompt start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, as proposed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon."
This is very significant.
In its past general assemblies, the ICAPP repeatedly voiced the need to create a world without nuclear weapons. The 2009 Astana Declaration proclaimed, "A world, including all regions, without nuclear weapons should be objective." The 2010 Phnom Penh Declaration expressed its support for "negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention." And this time, the Colombo Declaration included a sentence in which the ICAPP general assembly "called for a prompt start of negotiations on the convention."
So, the ICAPP has changed the wording in its declarations to a more active voice in playing a role in global efforts for a start of negotiations on the convention.
Now in Japan, in preparation for the next year's NPT Review Conference, many people are participating in a signature-collection campaign demanding the start of the negotiations. This demand has been reflected in the statement of the ICAPP general assembly where Asian political parties gathered. This is a significant outcome.
Q: JCP proposals share a common direction with the Declaration.
Shii: Yes, they do. In April, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with ICAPP Co-Chair, Hon. Chung Eui-Yong at the JCP head office. Mr. Chung kindly expressed his willingness to invite proposals to be included in the general assembly's declaration. In May, we took up that invitation and requested the ICAPP secretariat to take into account two JCP proposals in drafting a declaration.
The one was on regional cooperation for peace and the other was on the issue of nuclear weapons.
In August, Mr. Chung in his e-mail kindly expressed his appreciation for the JCP's commitment to the ICAPP cause.
At the ICAPP meeting in Colombo, I conveyed my appreciation to Mr. Chung and I was very pleased to hear Mr. Chung express his gratitude for our cooperation.
I was really glad that the JCP's cooperation bore fruit for the success of the ICAPP meeting.
Q: What about exchanges you had with representatives from other political parties?
Shii: We had talks with delegates of political parties from most of the 29 countries participating in the conference.
For example, we had talks with delegates representing two political parties from Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the ruling party is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the largest opposition party is the United National Party. We had opportunities to talk with the leaders of both parties. Sri Lanka is one of the countries where the Non-Aligned Movement was initiated and has always taken a positive stand in support of the abolition of nuclear weapons. The leaders of the parties shared the common goal of working for a world without nuclear weapons.
I had especially memorable talks with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the head of the United National Party. When I explained to him about the JCP's initiative for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia, Mr. Wickremesinghe said that he found it very important that the initiative states that Japan's remorse for its past war of aggression and colonial rule is an essential basis for establishing trust.
It was very impressive to hear this candid opinion from a political leader of Sri Lanka.
Shii: The other thing I would like to mention is our meetings with representatives of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL) and the Council of African Political Parties (CAPP).
The COPPPAL was founded in 1979 and is now taken part in by 69 centrist and leftist parties (17 ruling parties) of 21 Latin American countries. We learned that it has been involved in regional efforts to solve five conflicts, including in Columbia and Ecuador. It also adopted a resolution stating that no country should be allowed to possess or develop nuclear weapons.
The CAPP, established in Sudan in 2013, is joined by political parties from left- to right-wing regardless of their political differences. They include 45 political parties from 37 countries, representing almost all major parties on the African continent. The representative of the CAPP explained to me that it opposes exploitation, war, and foreign domination, and calls for a peaceful and just Africa and world.
Since the JCP finds common ground with what the two political organizations are pursuing, we expressed our hopes to further exchange views with each other from now on.
Through the talks with the two organizations, I realized that the way has been opened for the JCP's diplomatic exchanges with other political parties to further develop in the Asian, Latin American, and African continents.
Q: It has broadened our horizon, hasn't it?
Shii: Yes. What I recognized was that the development of the three conferences of political parties in the three continents, the ICAPP, the COPPPAL, and the CAPP, are deeply connected with the building of regional frameworks for peace and cooperation. In many areas of Asia, such frameworks, including the ASEAN, have been created. Latin America has the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). In Africa, the African Union (AU) has been active.
Throughout the various activities during the ICAPP General Assembly, I strongly felt that what we call for in our proposals for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia and for a regional community in Asia has universality. The JCP's position shares in common with the mainstream of Asia and the world. We would like to have confidence in this and further promote our endeavors.