Welcome to the

President of Soka Gakkai International,

Daisaku Ikeda's

Peace Proposal 1986


Toward a Global Movement for a Lasting Peace

The following is the full text of the proposal for peace presented by SGI President

Daisaku Ikeda on the occasion of the eleventh SGI Day, January 26.

The goal of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is to establish a firm foundation for peace in accordance with Buddhist philosophy in every country of the world. In this context, and on the occasion of this eleventh SGI Day, I would like to reaffirm that what is meant by rissho ankoku (securing the peace of the land through the propagation of true Buddhism) is the realization of tranquillity in society and permanent peace throughout the world.

To that end, in 1957 my respected mentor; Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, issued a declaration against nuclear weapons and called on the young people of the world to march forth under its banner. Since then, twenty-nine years have passed, and last year we celebrated the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Soka Gakkai as well as the tenth anniversary of the SGI, the significance of which we commemorated at the World Peace Youth Culture Festivals held in Hawaii and Hiroshima.

Both were immensely successful affairs, honored by visits from the sixty-seventh high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nikken Shonin. I feel that the Sixth World Peace Youth Culture Festival held in Hiroshima not only put the crowning touch on the SGI's first decade but provided the perfect opportunity to once again rally SGI members in the cause of the worldwide movement to ban nuclear weapons, which was the will of Mr... Toda.

This eleventh SGI Day is, I believe, an ideal opportunity for us to reflect on how the SGI can make a fresh start in the second decade since its founding. And it is my deepest hope that all of the SGI members will set forth courageously with me as we advance into the SGI’s next decade dedicated to the distant and noble goal of lasting world peace.

Promoting U.S. -Soviet Dialogue

I have taken every opportunity during these past few years to stress the importance of meetings between the top leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States in the cause of world peace. In May 1981, 1 visited the Soviet Union for the third time, and in a meeting with former Premier Tikhonov, I made an appeal to Soviet leaders, saying how much comfort it would be to the whole human race if meaningful talks were to be opened between the top Soviet and U.S. leaders, in Switzerland or some other congenial location, preferably away from Moscow.

Later, in a proposal presented in 1983 at the eighth SGI Day as well as at last year’s SGI tenth anniversary commemorative celebrations, I urged the immediate opening of summit talks between the two superpowers. I can hardly overemphasize the importance of honest, frank exchange of opinions between the two world leaders, at this juncture in particular, so that they will each understand what the other is thinking and know what he wishes to accomplish for his country. I am convinced that such an encounter, although it means that both parties must overcome great obstacles, will yield bold ideas and actions with which to break through the impasse they now face, thereby paving the way for further brave decisions.

For these reasons, we must rejoice at the realization of the U.S.-Soviet summit held last year. Although the substantive results of the meeting will have to be evaluated in the light of the future actions of both superpowers, I highly applaud the mood of detente that spread throughout the world as a result of the direct talks between the U.S. and Soviet leaders. We must not underestimate the atmosphere of optimism and hope and the environment for peace that were created simply by the very fact that they met.

The confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union has been so intense in recent years as to be called the "new cold war." As a result of the intense nuclear arms race, nuclear weapons are being made more compact in size—as "usable weapons"—and we hear ominous terms such as "nuclear preemptive strike syndrome" bandied about often these days. At the second SGI general meeting in August 1981 in Hawaii I harshly criticized the inhumanity and peril inherent in nuclear strategy today.

The dangerous trend that has prevailed made the joint statement, announced following the U.S.-Soviet summit last year, all the more significant. In the statement, the leaders of both superpowers agreed that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and they also emphasized the importance of preventing any war between them, either nuclear or conventional, and agreed that they will not seek to achieve military preponderance. I have consistently insisted on the necessity of dialogue between the U.S. and S~soviet leaders, largely because I wanted to hear the two world leaders reconfirm to the world their pledge to avoid war, including nuclear war, for the sake of humanity. Such a pledge would be meaningful only between the leaders who have assumed the positions of ultimate responsibility. Indeed, the meeting did brighten the prospects for world peace, and raised the hopes of many around the globe.

On January 15, furthermore, Mr. Gorbachev proposed a step-by-step plan (consisting of three stages) for ridding the earth of nuclear weapons before the end of this century. There have been some significant moves in the sphere of nuclear disarmament, such as President Reagan’s positive reaction to the Soviet proposal, and these we must sincerely welcome.

Mr... Harold Willens, prominent peace activist in the United States, has argued against leaving the resolution of the nuclear arms dilemma to the experts: "The myth of expertise is exactly that a myth. It takes scientific skills to make a hydrogen bomb. It takes only common sense to know when there are too many hydrogen bombs. And common sense is precisely what is needed now." We can replace "common sense" with human conscience and intelligence. It is easier for those in the top positions of leadership, who hold immense responsibility, to see things from the standpoint of "common sense than it is for "expert" administrators or scientists. By virtue of their position, moreover, they have channels of communication with the "common sense populace—the people. If innumerable such channels can be cultivated, the tide of the movement for world peace can be raised over the barriers between nation states and national interests.

As for the Soviet-Japan relationship, which has been decidedly cool in recent years, this year’s visit to Japan by Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, in compliance with the request of General Secretary Gorbachev, was of epochal significance. The success of the resulting exchanges, moreover, suggests the possibility of a major about-face in the postwar relationship between the two countries, including improved prospects for conclusion of a peace treaty.

In a proposal presented on the occasion of the eighth SGI Day in 1983, I called for the establishment of a "Nuclear War Prevention Center," staffed by specialists from both the United States and the Soviet Union. I would like to welcome the inclusion in last year’s U.S.-Soviet joint statement of an agreement to set up risk reduction centers designed to engage in expert-level research on ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war. It is extremely important to take practical measures to prevent the occurrence of accidental nuclear war, if the pledge to prevent nuclear war is to be honored.

I am not, however, overly optimistic about the immediate future of the U.S.-Soviet relationship. I am as aware as ever that for all the talk of a "new starting point," what we must seriously watch is how the superpowers actually conduct themselves. Of particular worry is the danger that while the negotiations drag on, the militarization of outer space may become an accomplished fact. This eventuality is imminent, especially in view of the infamous history of new arms limitation talks between the two nations in the past.

The crucial test will come at the U.S.-Soviet summit meetings, scheduled to be held this year and again in 1987. It is my hope that at these meetings the two leaders will agree on measures to freeze production of nuclear arms as a precondition to their abolishment. This precondition should be the starting point for the drastic reduction of nuclear arms.

We need hardly cite the example of SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), which were arms reduction talks in name only; while the two sides discussed arms control, neither went so far as to actually propose reduction of nuclear weapons. We are no longer free to simply cling to the status quo on the pretext of maintaining the "balance" of nuclear power. We can only earnestly hope that the U.S.Soviet dialogue will reach the stage at which a comprehensive ban is imposed on testing of nuclear weapons. The announcement of a total ban on nuclear testing would be the best possible news for the nonnuclear powers which are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We must remind the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union that their actions are being closely followed by all the people in the world who aspire to a permanent peace. We can only hope that the two world leaders will open the way for the co-conclusion of a new treaty to limit military activities in outer space.

Of course, the achievement of world peace cannot be left to the United States and the Soviet Union alone. We all have a mission to devise and implement ways to rebuild the crumbling peace, and now more than ever, this endeavor requires bold initiatives that are not constrained by the narrow considerations of national interest.

Opening Up New Horizons of Civilization

Today we need deepened confidence in the profound structural changes that international society is undergoing as we near the turn of the twenty-first century. We can sense in the upsurge of the antinuclear, antiwar movement led by ordinary citizens and in its spread across national boundaries the advent of a new "era of the people." The mass movement in pursuit of peace and protection of human rights and the natural environment, seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons, and the freeing of the world from hunger and poverty, is very active; it represents an important organized force that supplements the efforts of government and international organizations. The significance of this movement cannot be overemphasized. The time has come for the people on a global scale to be more deeply aware that it is the power of the people that changes history.

I completely agree with Dr. Norman Cousins, the well-known commentator on world affairs, who recently wrote: "If the existence of force can no longer serve as the main source of a nation’s security, something else will have to take its place if the human society is to be able to endure and function. The new power that must be brought into being is the power represented by human will—the power of consensus. Out of it can come the energy and momentum for building a haven for human society."

The year 1986 was designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Peace (IYP). What this International Year of Peace means, I think, is that all peoples should make special efforts to share their knowledge of and ideas on ways to prevent war and to build global peace, as well as to put such ideas into action.

With the beginning of the International Year of Peace, United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar appealed to the people of the world in his inaugural message: "It is time to act on behalf of the future well-being of all nations with the vision and forbearance that peace requires." I need not reiterate that the ultimate aim of the Soka Gakkai International is the realization of world peace in accordance with Buddhist teachings. As already confirmed in the SGI’s basic policy, our ultimate aim is to realize eternal peace and to promote humanistic culture and education, based on the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, founder of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, which clearly explains the fundamental importance of the dignity of human life.

The members of the SGI are also resolved to work for happiness for all humankind and the prosperity of the world, while strongly rejecting the use of force or coercion of any kind, supporting the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and working positively to cooperate with its program to maintain world peace, abolish nuclear weapons, and realize a world without war.

Considering the trend of the times, it is highly appropriate that the United Nations should have designated this year as the International Year of Peace, with its three-pronged drive for peace and disarmament, peace and development, and preparation for living in a peaceful world. Here, I would like to again declare our full support for these noble goals.

According to statistics released by the United Nations last year, as many as twenty million people have been killed in roughly 150 armed conflicts since the cessation of World War II. This figure exceeds the number of soldiers killed in that global war. Although there has been no conflict of the like since then, we must face the harsh reality that twenty million people have been the victims of incessant regional strafes. The United Nations report notes an extremely large number of casualties among civilians. It also states that the post-World War II period is characterized by a prevalence of "irregular wars," that is, war waged in the absence of any formal declaration of war or clear ultimatum. As a result, "the parties to the conflict have not felt bound by any rules of conduct" such as international law or treaties.

Nothing is so brutal or so tragic as war, and yet total lawlessness prevails today in many parts of the world. Together with the direct damage of war, we must also turn our attention to problems of the social structure such as suppression of human rights, discrimination, hunger and poverty. Today, peace and human rights are inseparably related, and on this basic- premise, we have supported the refugee relief activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR) and actively promoted the refugee relief activities centered in the Soka Gakkai Youth Peace Conference. Refugee relief work, we believe, is an indispensable part of protection of human rights and, hence, of the constructive creation of peace. In this International Year of Peace, we are determined to continue multilateral and steady efforts for protection of the dignity of man.

We are faced in the world today with the reality that, with increased interdependence among nations, it is exceedingly difficult to start a large-scale war. When we consider the ill effects and severe impact of war on the economy, we cannot afford to hesitate in recognizing that war squanders money and devastates the environment. Of course, it may not be possible to rid the earth of all conflict immediately. The problem is how to construct a framework for maintaining regional peace in such a way that it can spread throughout the world.

As we look out over the world today, we can see that the Asia-Pacific region has immense potential. While there are various elements that could spark war in the region, no large-scale conflict is going on at present. It is in the Middle East and Central America that serious wars are being waged, and in these areas there is the danger that the tiniest spark of trouble could bring the whole world to the edge of catastrophe. The problem of famine in Africa, from the viewpoint of "violence of the social structure," cannot be put aside. I have no intention whatsoever of turning away from these realities, and I believe Japan must not shirk its duty to contribute to the cause of world peace commensurate with its national strength.

At the same time, as we examine more closely the dimensions of immediate strife and disruption in the form of war and famines; when we consider the problem of world peace with a comprehensive grasp of many factors, including politics, economics, culture, and education; and when we seek to create a lasting peace in the history of civilization, not a short-term peace that is no more than an interlude between wars, we are forced to turn our attention to the Asia-Pacific region. Inherent in this view is the geopolitical judgment that Japan belongs to and is deeply involved in this region, both historically and geographically, and that Japan must play a leading role in shaping its destiny.

The Asia-Pacific Region in the "No War" Movement

I also touched on the importance of the Asia-Pacific region in my proposal presented at last year’s SGI Day celebrations. Unlike in Europe, where NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the Warsaw Treaty Organization stand in direct confrontation, a multiplicity of elements are factors in this region. Among them are the superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union; Japan, a leading economic power with a constitution dedicated to peace; resource-rich Canada; China in the throes of a modernization drive leading into the twenty-first century; the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) countries, steadily gaining national strength; the newly industrializing countries (NICs) of South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which have achieved dramatic economic growth; as well as the movement in the South Pacific toward creating a nuclear-free zone centering on Australia and New Zealand.

I talked about this region with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India during his visit to Japan in November last year because the question of how to promote the prospects for peace in the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, is a subject ever-present in my mind. India actively promotes peace diplomacy with particular stress on nuclear disarmament. Along with Sweden, Greece, Mexico, Tanzania and Argentina, India emphasizes the significance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in pressing for nuclear disarmament, and appeals for a halt to the militarization of outer space and for the conclusion of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. I am among the many who have great hopes for the future of Indian as well as Chinese diplomacy in the cause of peace.

We strongly support the "Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World" exhibition, which was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and subsequently in twelve other cities in ten countries, and this year also opened in India in January and is scheduled to open in Canada in April. We also hope to hold the same exhibition in China this fall in order to promote the movement for a world without nuclear weapons or war and in anticipation of the coming of an Asia-Pacific era. I myself am determined to devote my utmost to this goal.

Because of the great diversity of cultures in the Asia-Pacific region, conditions are still chaotic, and the situation is replete with danger as well as potential. The danger that further intensification of the U.S.-Soviet military confrontation in this unstable area could trigger a third world war is obvious.

In May 1974, 1 spoke with Mr. Andre Malraux during his visit to Japan as special envoy of the French government. I can still remember clearly what he said at that time. At one point he declared that if a third world war should break out, it will surely be in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan must exert the maximum effort to see that such an eventuality does not come to pass.

At the same time, if we are to correctly follow history’s progress, we must fix our eyes on the energy and potentialities latent even in the chaos of the Asia-Pacific region. Paul Valery, the French critic, once stated plainly that European civilization is essentially a Mediterranean civilization, and he cited its three components as Roman Law, Christianity, and Grecian thought. He also said that European civilization is characterized by the immensity of its greed and ambition, which, for better or worse, helped it to attain global universality. It hardly need be said that European civilization has both its good and bad side. It is responsible for many material benefits which developed out of its immense "greed and ambition," but it is also true that it perpetrated irredeemable atrocities through colonialism and imperialism.

Is it sheer fantasy to suppose that an Asia-Pacific civilization will dawn which will possibly sublimate even the good aspects of European or Mediterranean civilization aryl which will break through to new horizons in the history of civilization?

In our joint work Choose Life, Dr. A. J. Toynbee emphasizes the role to be played by East Asia in the coming century, and he gives several reasons, as follows: (1) the Chinese people’s experience, during the last twenty-one centuries, in maintaining an empire that is a regional model for a literally worldwide world-state; (2) the ecumenical spirit with which the Chinese have been imbued during the long passage of Chinese history; (3) the humanism of the Confucian Weltanschauung; (4) the rationalism of both Confucianism and Buddhism; (5) East Asian people’s sense of the mystery of the universe and the recognition that human attempts to dominate the universe are self-defeating; (6) the conviction that, far from trying to dominate nature, man’s aim should be to live in harmony with it; (7) the demonstration, by the Japanese people, that it is possible for East Asian peoples to beat the Westerners’ own modern game of applying science to both civilian and military technology; (8) the courage shown by both the Japanese and the Vietnamese in daring to challenge the West.

There is little I can add to the insightful analysis of this great scholar, and I understand that some differ with his analysis. But, as we work toward our distant goal with all its inherent challenges, we must not forget even for a moment that the axis of our endeavor is a new humanism, which will without fail value "human beings" and "mankind" above all.

The Asia-Pacific region has come into the global limelight in recent years mainly because of economic considerations, and Japan is a particular case in point. To tackle the real and immediate tasks we face is of course important, but they should be approached from the broad perspective of world peace, not simply as part of the helter-skelter scramble of economic competition. If this can be achieved, the Asia-Pacific region will take on a new significance in the history of mankind, as expressed in the so-called Russell-Einstein Manifesto: "I appeal, as a human being to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest."

The Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture

As a stepping stone to the perspective of world peace, I would like to propose a plan for an "Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture" (APOPAC) as the key liaison in the promotion of cooperation among Asian and Pacific nations based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit. I believe such an organization could maintain a loose, indirect relationship with the United Nations, rather than being under its direct supervision. It could also establish a connection in one form or another with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), a subsidiary agency of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, to supplement and reinforce its functions from the perspectives of peace, culture and disarmament.

Once in talks with Dr. Richard Coudenhove Kalergi, founder of the Pan-European movement, I appealed to him to build a regional  headquarters of the United Nations for Asia and the Far East in Tokyo. I developed the APOPAC plan after that in view of subsequent trends in global affairs. The plan has been proposed chiefly to provide a forum for international dialogue among nations on equal grounds and on a permanent basis, so that the countries of the Asia-Pacific region can discuss regional problems, maintain peace, achieve disarmament and further develop their economies.

The United Nations, to which 159 nations belong, has its headquarters in New York, and I have consistently supported, if in a very modest way, its activities, because I have great hopes for this "parliament of humanity" and the role it can play in world peace and the solution of problems in international society. I shall continue as before to give this support in order that the ideals espoused in the United Nations Charter may come to full fruition.

However, as we are all aware, the United Nations has many problems, such as those in connection with its peace-keeping functions. It is a global organization, and this makes it difficult for it to deal effectively with regional problems. In order to remedy these weaknesses, it is time to consider an organization based on a totally new concept, and tailored to the needs of the times. As a move in that direction, I would suggest that the United Nations adopt a policy which decentralizes its power to regional agencies.

The proposed Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture, I hope, will also provide direction for the way that nongovernmental organizations (NGO) might adapt themselves to the new age. Today private initiatives are growing increasingly vigorous, and their importance and influence is now greater than ever, but the participation of popular groups and NGO in the United Nations is, at least at this point, insufficient.

On the other hand, I have great hopes that the proposed Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture will demand active popular participation, and open up new horizons in its activities in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations, and that the NGO on their part will seriously examine the roles they can play. As an NGO, Soka Gakkai International will support, as far as possible, the realization of such a plan.

Looking toward the twenty-first century, I believe we must combine the wisdom of all the peoples of the world to create a system for global integration, but this cannot be achieved in a day. This globe-encompassing vision of the future can only be made possible by building upon the accumulated activities of each decentralized region.

The problem of regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific has been discussed in many ways, and some concrete plans have resulted. Some proposals for economics-oriented organizations have been made because of the necessity for regional economic cooperation and systemization of interdependent relations. Little headway has been made in implementing such proposals because of the vastness, diversity, and ethnic pluralism of the Asia-Pacific region. Great differences in social systems, ethnic background, religion, and culture as well as different stages of economic development often make it difficult to create a cooperative relationship among the nations of this region.

In comparison to the common cultural and historical background shared by the European countries, which make up the backbone of the European Community (EC), the nations of Asia and the Pacific are so diverse politically, economically and culturally that they find it difficult to unite. Any plan that places disproportionate emphasis on politics (security) or on economics will easily break down, as it tends to produce friction and resistance. I therefore propose that the basic coordinates of the organization be "peace," "disarmament," "development," and "culture." The most important premise here is respect for the diversity and plurality of all cultural traditions in the region, and rejection of a uniform policy that places any one culture above others, or forces any particular culture upon others. The path to mutual understanding must be paved with respect for indigenous cultures.

No new organization can be established overnight. Its creation must be approached with practicality and discretion. We need not be constrained by the belief that the participation of all countries concerned is required from the outset or that it cannot get started unless it has reached some ideal form and configuration. It would be much more reasonable to begin modestly with what we have, proceed with a flexible spirit, and establish step by step a permanent loose "consultative body."

One step, for instance, might be to hold an "Asia-Pacific Summit," at which the top leaders of Asian and Pacific nations would meet. There have been many summit meetings among the advanced countries, but never among the Asian and Pacific nations. Initiatives such as this would provide accumulated know-how upon which could eventually be established an organization in a form that is appropriate for the twenty-first century. We must be mindful that the Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture and such events as an Asia-Pacific summit should not be dominated or controlled by the big powers. Within Japan itself, we are witnessing an upsurge in the force of regional identity and sentiment, and this is reflected worldwide; we can achieve neither peace nor prosperity without the revitalization of local regions.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Japan becoming a member of the United Nations in 1956. When Japan was formally admitted to the United Nations by resolution in the General Assembly,  Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu said in his speech at the time: "The substance of Japan’s political, economic and cultural life is the product of the fusion within the last century of the civilizations of the Orient and the Occident. In a way, Japan may well be regarded as a bridge between the East and the West," and his words were warmly received by many nations.

Over the past thirty years, the greatest task for the whole world, Japan and the Asian and Pacific nations included, has been the "fusion of tradition and modernization." Today, as thirty years ago, Japan again can become a bridge connecting East and West, this time by promoting the APOPAC and thereby a "fusion of tradition and modernization.~~ To that end, a system for cooperation between the organization and the Tokyo-based United Nations University will be a necessity.

Melbourne, Australia, also presents a very promising location for the headquarters of such an organization because Australia, along with Japan, was quick to recognize the importance of the Pacific region and to promote the establishment of a joint organization.

I am anxious for Japan to take the leadership in this plan because of the nature of its constitution, which, in its preamble and in article nine, pledges dedication to eternal peace. The preamble expressly stipulates that the pursuit of peace be based on the sense of justice and faith of the world’s peoples. It reads: "We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationships, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world." This statement anticipated the proper path to peace in an age when the destiny of mankind is under the constant threat of nuclear arms. I believe it is Japan’s mission not to revise its constitution to suit the bitter realities of international politics, as some have advocated, but somehow to bring the spirit of its constitution to real—life international politics.

I say this because, today, mutual distrust is one of the most serious problems in global society. More than anything else, it is now necessary and important to avoid armed conflict caused by distrust and to create a global current toward seeking peaceful solutions to all problems through consultation. This is the reason why we must continue to appeal to the world with the ideals of Japan’s Peace Constitution which are epoch-making.

United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar observed as follows: "I think you are setting, or have already set, an interesting example which could be followed by the whole international community. You have dedicated your efforts to your own development, and you have refrained from the production of arms—and then, you have just been doing only what was needed for your own security. If this example could be followed, we can really think in terms of a very reasonably developed world." I am encouraged by the fact that thoughtful people in the world think in this way.

Like it or not, the pressure on as well as the expectations of Japan, as a leading economic power, is increasing. It is not necessary to resort to military solutions in order to fulfill such expectations. It is unquestionable that if the emphasis were placed on military buildup, it would shake the very foundations of Japan’s postwar peaceful development. It would also evoke a strong reaction abroad, in particular from other Asian countries. How much more favorable would be the response of the world if we were, instead, to generously endow an organization aimed at securing peace, such as the proposed Asia-Pacific Organization for Peace and Culture. This will enable the creation of a peaceful foundation for disarmament, aid and development, creating a new "Geneva" or "Vienna" in the Asia-Pacific region which might influence the entire world.

Peace and Prosperity for a Divided Peninsula

As I have said before, the chaotic Asia-Pacific region harbors both great danger and great potential. Symbolic of the danger is the division and confrontation between the Republic of Korea (hereafter referred to as South Korea), which is separated from Japan by a narrow channel of water, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (hereafter referred to as North Korea). Should the current truce erupt into war, it would not only involve the lives of the sixty million people in North and South Korea, but could affect the neighboring countries and possibly even trigger nuclear war because of Korea’s strategic location. We can hardly talk of peace for the Asia-Pacific region without first directly confronting the realities of the situation in which various tragedies repeatedly occur as a result of the division which continues even today, as it has throughout the forty years since the Korean people were split into two.

Why was the Korean Peninsula, originally inhabited by a single ethnic group, torn asunder? If we look back in history, we can see that the highhanded annexation of Korea by a militaristic Japan as well as its colonial control of the country is closely related to the current conditions there. The people of Korea were forced to bow to Japanese ambitions, and they suffered in the process tragedies which defy description. At the time of Japan’s defeat, the United States and the Soviet Union divided the responsibilities for demilitarization of the Japanese army, and the thirty-eighth parallel was established as the line determining their spheres of duty. In other words, thirty-eight degrees north latitude divided the peninsula: the Soviet Union assumed control over the north and the U.S. over the south. Later on, when the north and south declared the formation of separate states, and the three-year Korean War began in June 1950, the present boundary (a military demarcation line) was established.

In principle, the problem should be dealt with by the two Koreas at their own initiative, and the intervention of a third party in their domestic affairs is not desirable. I would place particular emphasis on this, in view of the initiatives and concrete progress that have emerged of late in the North-South dialogue; for example, in the form of the North-South Red Cross talks.

In view of historical circumstances, there are many complicated questions to be answered in considering whether Japan has any right to speak on the Korean problem. Before Japan can dare to become involved in the destiny of the two countries, there are many tasks of its own it must attend to.

First of all, although Japan and Korea are located close to each other, the Japanese are surprisingly ignorant of Korean people’s history. This tendency can be traced, I believe, to the misguided "dissociate from Asia, join the Western powers" trend that has existed since the middle of the nineteenth century. The groundless misunderstanding and prejudice resulting from a total ignorance of Korea are still far from being completely eliminated in Japan.

Secondly, there is the problem of the 700,000 Koreans who reside in Japan. We cannot afford to forget that these people are directly exposed daily to the misunderstanding, prejudice and discrimination which have become deeply rooted in Japanese Society.

The unfortunate history of relations between Japan and North and South Korea is by no means at its end; it is still a very real and immediate problem which needs to be dealt with. It is unfair to discuss the problem of the two Koreas without paying proper heed to Japan’s responsibilities, and, in addition, it will be regarded with contempt by Koreans, and will simply aggravate their injured pride. We, the members of the SGI, are prepared to tackle this task, and considering that much of the problem requires political solutions, it is desirable for statesmen to take the initiative by confronting each issue in a positive and constructive manner.

I am well aware of the difficulties involved in addressing this problem, but I dare to speak of this matter because, as the leader of the SGI and as a citizen of the world, I continue to aspire to eternal peace. The division of Korea into north and south is a great obstacle to the realization of permanent peace. This is also clear from the fact that both North Korean and South Korean delegations were invited to and made a speech at the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly last year. I believe that peace in the entire Asia-Pacific region and in the world is impossible without peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. If, however, the light of peace were lit in that region, it would help, I believe, to break through the dark cloud that is overshadowing the globe.

The problem of seating South Korea and North Korea in the United Nations remains unsolved. China, the Soviet Union, and some other countries do not recognize South Korea, while, on the other hand, some free-world nations such as the United States and Japan do not recognize North Korea. There was a proposal for "cross recognition," in which the Eastern bloc would recognize South Korea and the Western bloc would recognize North Korea in order to break the deadlock, but North Korea would not concede, claiming that the cross recognition or simultaneous admittance to the United Nations would only further solidify the divided state of the Korean Peninsula.

Toward Direct Talks Between North and South Korean Leaders

North Korea and South Korea have achieved some agreements in the past. The greatest result was the North-South joint statement, issued on July 4, 1972. The agreed-upon principles for unification were: (1) unification should be pursued voluntarily without dependence on or interference from outside parties, (2) unification should be realized by peaceful means without recourse to the use of armed force against one another, and (3) unification should above all be aimed toward the solidarity of a single people, a solidarity which transcends differences in ideology, thought and system. In spite of various incidents since then, the basic policy, as seen in the two countries’ assertions concerning unification in a peaceful and self-initiated manner, remains unchanged. However, the difficulties of overcoming the barriers to the peaceful unification of the two countries, posed by the different social systems cultivated over four decades, are formidable.

In my proposal last year, I welcomed the signs of progress toward direct dialogue between North and South Korea, and stressed the importance of high-level talks between the two countries. One year has passed since then, and I feel that the time has neared for the top leaders of North Korea and South Korea to speak directly with one another. Considering the feelers sent out by the two countries over the past forty years and the prospects for the future, I feel it is a necessary precondition to any change that the top leaders of North Korea and South Korea face each other over the negotiating table and talk frankly. As I have mentioned earlier with regard to the U.S.-Soviet summit, I would like to stress again here that the very act of meeting has great significance. After all, despite many proposals over the past four decades, the prospect of peace has hardly advanced at all, largely because of deep-rooted distrust on both sides.

Mr... George F. Kennan, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, who is known as a proponent of disarmament, says that distrust is "a species of fixation, brewed out of many components." To quote him further, "There are fears, resentments, national pride. There are misreadings of the adversary’s intentions sometimes even the refusal to consider them at all. There is the tendency of national communities to dehumanize the opponent. There is the blinkered, narrow vision of the professional military planner, and his tendency to make war inevitable by assuming its inevitability." Nothing is more frightening than to be trapped in the midst of such fixations.

I myself have met with the leaders of many countries, including those of the United States, the Soviet Union and China, in my search for the pathway to peace. In the course of these many meetings, I have experienced instances in which my image or preconception of a person turned out to be one-sided; sometimes I discovered a completely different aspect to the person that I had never imagined existed. This is why I believe that dialogue can pave the way for bold decisions, and is clearly the royal road to removing the "fixations" Mr... Kennan describes.

Once a relationship of trust is established, it can lead to a consensus upon which to establish shared values. It goes without saying that direct dialogue between the top leaders of North Korea and South Korea, which have such disparate social systems and values, is indispensable. Since dialogue has never before been attempted, complications can be expected, but I truly believe that the people concerned will persist in their efforts to overcome the difficulties.

What can we expect from such a dialogue? After examining past proposals and points upon which North Korea and South Korea have agreed, I think that the first task is to pledge "mutual nonaggression and renunciation of war." North Korea must state that it will not advance southward while South Korea will promise not to invade the north. The starting point of any dialogue must be for the leaders of the two countries to domestically and internationally reaffirm and declare such intentions.

The two Koreas signed a cease-fire agreement at the end of the Korean War, but the cease-fire is actually far from a true peace. One never knows when hostilities may flare up again, and so military expenditures in both countries account for a much larger percentage of the national budget than in other countries. The people of both Koreas must hope that the cease-fire will in fact be a permanent termination of war. An agreement on nonaggression and renunciation of war is an important precondition for achieving a real turning point in the forty-year history of the divided peninsula. Fundamentally, I believe that a pledge for mutual nonaggression and renunciation of war should be given first priority, and that no other condition should be sought. If concerned countries, namely the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and Japan, approved and decided to support such an agreement, the tension between North Korea and South Korea would be greatly alleviated.

Through dialogue between North Korea and South Korea on specific issues of concern to the peace-aspiring peoples of both sides, a realistic consensus could be achieved, and this in turn would be like a sunbeam pushing its way through the dark cloud that hangs over Northeast Asia. I sincerely hope that those concerned will make even greater efforts for the earliest possible realization of that goal.

The line that currently divides North Korea and South Korea, a military demarcation or cease-fire line, runs for 248 kilometers from the Han River estuary to the eastern coast roughly along the thirty-eighth parallel. An area of four kilometers, two kilometers each to the north and to the south of this demarcation line, is designated as the demilitarized zone. This vast area was prepared to ease the military confrontation between the two countries. The only officially recognized road between North Korea and South Korea passes through the demilitarized zone at Panmunjom.

Last year, families which had been separated by the partitioning of the north and south passed along this road from Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. We all watched the historic exchanges on television. While gazing at the movement of people passing to and from at Panmunjom, the only point of contact between the two countries, I pondered again on a way to use this demilitarized zone in order to gradually attain peace in which all sorts of people could move along this road more freely until the day when this now barren demilitarized zone might once more be liberated for the use of the people.

Would it not be possible, I wonder, to find an appropriate place in Panmunjom or the demilitarized zone and revive it as a base of culture and peaceful interchange? If the top leaders of North Korea and South Korea signed a pledge of "mutual nonaggression and renunciation of war," the present demilitarized zone could be turned into a place for new, creative work, meanwhile retaining its current peacekeeping status. Its passive function of maintaining the cease-fire, preventing the resumption of hostilities, could be turned into an active one, utilizing the area more positively in order to actually build peace. By changing the "cease-fire" into a "renunciation of war," the area can be changed into a place of regeneration and life, where people can enjoy the benefits of culture and peace.

The most realistic starting place, I think, would be with exchanges of a nonpolitical nature, such as those which take place in sports and academic study, as have already been conducted successfully between South Korea and China, or between South Korea and the Soviet Union, even though they have no formal diplomatic relations.

Some people may say that such a proposal is a fantastic dream, especially those who have seen the bleak, desolate demilitarized zone, but we must remind ourselves that the military demarcation line that divides a people of the same ethnic heritage did not originally exist. People were once perfectly free to come and go. People would be living in the barren demilitarized zone at this very moment, if there had been no colonial annexation by Japan, no war, and no U.S.-Soviet confrontation. The area must be given back to the people, so that real peace can again prevail.

The first stage, in preparation for this eventuality, would be to begin international exchanges and joint research in the various fields of science and sports. In the disciplines of science and research, people are seeking universalities that transcend differences of nation states, ethnic background or ideology—barriers often leading to confrontation. The results of such research, moreover, should not belong only to a single country, but ought to be offered to the whole of humanity. This knowledge can thereby be spread and shared as a joint asset of mankind.

Such a zone could be open to all countries of the world, and made an international center for joint research where scholars and specialists, including those from countries such as the United States and Japan that do not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, as well as from countries which have no diplomatic ties with South Korea, such as China and the Soviet Union, can participate freely and discuss the findings of their research. This would enable the latest information, including that on advanced technology, to be transmitted accurately through exchange and research, and thereby used to its fullest. I am convinced that this, in turn, would contribute greatly to the solution of the problems of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, as well as the resolution of the division of North Korea and South Korea.

Hope in the Youth of the Twenty-first Century

The people of North Korea and South Korea will eventually be freed from the terror of war, if this former battlefield, once torn apart in the arena of international politics and stained with blood, can be turned into a center for the promotion of peace, science and culture. My hope is that the balm of tranquillity and prosperity will help to salve the wounds inflicted by decades of suffering from invasion, war and internal strife.

I have dared to speak out on the issue of the divided Koreas and state my ideas on the prospects for Korea in the twenty-first century as both a Buddhist who devoutly aspires to world peace and as a citizen of our one-and-only earth; it is my earnest wish to share the sunshine of this peace with the people of the Korean Peninsula. If progress could be made in Korea toward a real peace, it would surely provide a great source of courage and hope for the people in other countries.

In a sense, the people of the Korean Peninsula symbolize the pain and suffering of the twentieth century. Long after this suffering is overcome and the country is resurrected as a whole, it will continue to stand in history as a model of how one of the most difficult predicaments experienced, not only in Asia but the entire world, was resolved through wisdom and reason.

I have offered several concrete proposals with regard to problems concerning the Asia-Pacific region, but the most important task of all is to bring together the hearts and minds of peace-seeking people. Seventeen years ago, contemplating the future, I appealed for the establishment of friendly ties with the youth of China; it was September 1968, at the eleventh Soka Gakkai student division general meeting, a time when diplomatic ties between Japan and China had still not been restored. The Vietnam War was intensifying, and there was a deep concern that the tensions between the United States and China would escalate to the point of military conflict.

In pursuit of a fundamental turning point in what was clearly an extremely difficult period for the entire world, I offered an ambitious vision of peace throughout Asia and the world, which included China’s return to the United Nations and the normalization of the Sino-Japanese relations. I made the proposal in the hope that the generations of people who had not been directly involved in the Sino-Japanese War might join hands and work with goodwill toward the construction of a better world. Today I am deeply gratified to see that this hope has materialized, and that the young people of Japan and China enjoy what is now a deep and growing friendship.

In the same way, I hope the young people of North Korea and South Korea will be able to forge an enduring friendship and goodwill based on the spirit of peace and fraternity. I also hope that the young generation, which did not directly experience the unfortunate deeds of the past, will make a fresh start by respecting and helping one another in order to strengthen the bonds of friendship that can assure a brighter and more secure future for their country. My hope is that such bonds of friendship will transcend the boundaries of race and national allegiance and spread to the European countries, the nations of South America and the states of Africa so that the powerful healing rays of peace may envelop the earth.

We are steadily approaching the twenty-first century. The energy of young people, necessary for shouldering difficult challenges, will be the vital force of the next century, and I call upon them to carry my dream for friendship and world peace to its realization. To all the young people who will support the future of Asia and the Pacific as well as that of the entire world, I wish unfailing courage and fortitude.

January 26th 1986

Copyright 1986 by Soka Gakkai

All rights reserved


Each year since 1983, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda presents peace proposals on behalf of the international lay Buddhist organization, to which Soka Gakkai belongs. In them, he articulates Buddhist ideals and philosophy as a framework for addressing the manifold problems our global society faces in its efforts to realize human security and world peace.


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