Foreign ministers from five middle-power countries last Saturday issued a joint statement condemning the July 17 downing of a Malaysian passenger airplane in eastern Ukraine.
In their statement, the top diplomats from Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia said the incident was a “serious violation of international law,” giving full support for a recent U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the incident and demanding access to the crash site.
The issuance of the statement was an example of how the group of five countries, known by the acronym MIKTA, can take a joint stance on international issues. In September last year, the foreign ministers of the middle powers met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York to launch the consultative body with the aim of coordinating and increasing their roles on the global stage.
Members of the group are committed to making combined efforts to contribute to global governance, based on their shared interests and positions on development cooperation, climate change, nuclear disarmament, democratization and other matters. It is natural and necessary for the middle power countries to seek concerted action in addressing the challenges facing the international community, which are becoming more diverse and complex. In the long run, they may assume a bridging role between advanced and less-developed nations with different views on global issues, and help establish a better world order.
But it is far from easy for the group to function coherently and in a timely manner, as was envisioned, and gain international influence. The reality seems to be that MIKTA members have not been positive and efficient enough to consolidate their common ground in coping with international affairs.
In this sense, it was notable that they issued a joint statement denouncing the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, apparently by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board. Among the victims were nationals of Australia and Indonesia.
In the statement, they noted the need to strengthen international cooperation for securing safe navigation of civilian aircraft in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies. MIKTA members may have a role to play in helping enhance this global endeavor.
It may take more time and discussions for the group to draw up concerted strategies for addressing broad issues related to global governance. While continuing to make such efforts, the members need to speak out in an objective and reasonable manner as frequently as possible over disputes across the world, especially the sufferings of innocent citizens. The group could and should have issued another statement on Israel’s recent deadly attacks in Gaza, which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Palestinian residents.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said South Korea had taken the lead in issuing the joint statement condemning the downing of the Malaysian airliner. It had good reason to do so as a country which has undergone two similar tragedies involving civilian airplanes.
MIKTA can also serve as a useful platform for Seoul to expand its diplomatic horizons by actively engaging in multilateral middle-power diplomacy. Despite its economic growth and democratization, South Korea’s diplomacy has largely been framed by a security alliance with the U.S. and ties with key neighboring powers ― China, Japan and Russia ― under the shadow of military threats from North Korea. Its alignment with other middle-power democracies may help maximize its potential as a friendly and valuable partner for countries around the world, which will in turn further boost its international profile and diplomatic leverage.