Japanese, South Korean Consuls Discuss Regional Security, Global Economics

Japanese, South Korean Consuls Discuss Regional Security, Global Economics

The consuls general of Japan and of South Korea in Los Angeles, Junichi Ihara (left) and Kim Jae Soo, take questions from audience members in a School of Public Policy auditorium.

The top representatives from Japan and the Republic of Korea in Southern California visited campus on Monday for a discussion sponsored by the Graduate Student International Affairs Association at UCLA and cosponsored by the Asia Institute and the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies.

China is in a better position today than any other country to make up for recent declines in U.S. consumer spending, allowing for a recovery of the global economy, said Junichi Ihara, the consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, at a well-attended campus event on Monday. He shared the floor with Kim Jae Soo, the consul general of the Republic of Korea, for a broad discussion of economic and security issues in Northeast Asia sponsored by the Graduate Student International Affairs Association at UCLA and cosponsored by the UCLA Asia Institute and Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies.

If China's growth continues to come with increases in the gap between rich and poor there, and also with high environmental costs, however, the longer-term consequences may include social unrest and accelerated global warming, Ihara warned. The diplomat also questioned the motives behind increases in Chinese military spending, which has outpaced rapid growth in the Chinese economy in recent years.

"We must cooperate with China to make sure it develops in a more environmentally sustainable or friendly way," Ihara said at the May 11, 2009, event, expressing hope that China's leaders will take on the problem of unequal income distribution by themselves.

Relative to the United States and China, Japan has maintained low and generally static levels of greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Ihara said reductions are needed and highlighted a Japanese proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions in developing economies. Under the proposal, developing nations would sharply reduce the rates of increase of carbon dioxide emissions with each incremental rise in gross domestic product (GDP), or the sum of goods and services produced annually.

Consul General Kim devoted about half of his remarks to a free trade agreement that South Korea successfully negotiated in 2007 with the Bush administration, but that has stalled in both countries with opposition coming from the ailing U.S. auto industry and South Korean farmers. On Monday, Kim told the UCLA audience that the effect on the U.S. auto industry would be minimal, while the agreement would boost U.S–South Korean trade by billions of dollars, reduce the trade imbalance between the two countries, and create jobs, "especially in Southern California."

Both Ihara and Kim said that North Korea poses a threat to regional security in Northeast Asia. In response to questions from the audience, they expressed support for continued six-party talks on the nuclear issue. In line with recent statements from the Obama administration, Ihara said that one-on-one talks between the United States and North Korea could be acceptable so long as they reinforce six-party talks and the remaining parties are fully informed of their progress.

Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2009