Countries in Northeast Asia should beef up energy cooperation in a bid to bring peace and security to the region where a lack of trust has intensified geopolitical conflicts, a ranking Seoul diplomat said Friday.
Speaking at a forum on energy security in Seoul, Ahn Chong-ghee, deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, said Northeast Asia, highly dependent on overseas energy imports, faces growing challenges for regional energy cooperation due to geopolitical tension.
"The current geopolitical conflict is chipping away at this region's energy security. It is also adversely affecting our joint regional efforts to improve the weak intra-regional energy infrastructure," Ahn said during his opening remarks at the forum.
Seoul's relations with Japan have been strained due to Tokyo's attempts to gloss over its wartime atrocities such as sex slavery and its territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
Japan and China are also at odds due to a simmering territorial dispute involving a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Ahn said that Northeast Asia has also faced "a window of opportunities" as the recent boom in shale gas and falling oil prices will work favorably for the major energy importing countries in the region.
"I believe that energy cooperation among Northeast Asian nations could contribute to creating an environment conducive to regional peace and security as it could help to build trust in the region," he noted.
He said that Seoul's proposed peace initiative, dubbed the Northeast Asia Peace Cooperation Initiative, will be suitable for promoting peace in the region as the vision calls for building trust through nonpolitical cooperation.
"We believe that energy security could be one of the priority areas where tangible progress could be made," he added.
The forum on Northeast Asia energy security was hosted by Seoul's foreign ministry and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the regional development arm of the U.N. in the Asia-Pacific region. (Yonhap)