New Zealand – World Peace Capital
If Sino - US diplomatic efforts are successful, next month's APEC conference in Auckland could see New Zealand become the new peace capital of the world, establishing an entirely new industry in the process. John Howard reports.
Following on from the successful New Zealand brokered Bougainville peace talks at Burnham Military Camp, the upcoming Auckland meeting between Chinese President Jiang Zemin with his US counterpart, Bill Clinton, is expected to make or break Sino-US relations.
Consultations are on between Beijing and Washington in an attempt to get the two powerful leaders talking and to mend strained relations between the two countries.
A lot hinges on what transpires between Jiang and Clinton especially with regard to the investigations into the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7.
Auckland and New Zealand offers a neutral and peaceful venue for both men to reflect on the turbulent times in bilateral relations and chart a future course so as to avoid a disasterous Sino - US confrontation.
The meeting, if it happens, will focus on the embassy bombing, the Taiwan issue, China's bid to enter the World Trade Organisation, the US - Japan decision to establish a Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) system in East Asia and plans to offer a missile shield to Taiwan.
China is unhappy over Washington's handling of the embassy bombing incident and Beijing is awaiting a satisfactory answer from Washington on the bombing issue and wants the US to punish the guilty.
China is also upset over continued US sales of hi-tech and conventional arms to the rebel province of Taiwan, especially after Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui sought to redefine relations between China and Taiwan as state-to-state.
This, Beijing thinks, has violated the "One China Policy" which had kept the peace between them for decades. Beijing says the Taipei move to what it calls a two-state theory is a step towards independence.
It has renewed threats to invade Taiwan if the island, estranged since the end of a long civil war in 1949, declares independence.
Although Washington has reaffirmed its committment to a "One China Policy" and criticised the new Taiwan insistence that relations be conducted on the basis of equality, the continued arms sales and plans to include Taiwan into the proposed TMD system is seen in Beijing as a slap in the face.
China considers arms sales a breach of Sino-US agreements which led to a switch of recognition to Beijing from Taiwan in 1979.
The Auckland meeting may also pave the way for the resumption of stalled WTO negotiations between Beijing and Washington.
China sees the ball squarely in the US court and looks to something concrete for the improvement of relations.
In my view, the peace the world seeks can be fortified not by weapons of war but by wheat, and by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and by timber and by rice. These are words that translate into every language on earth.
Let us all hope these two most powerful world leaders see it the same way. In that sense, the Auckland APEC meeting is not just about trade it is also about war and peace.