Ban Ki-moon: U.S., China must collaborate to solve 'unprecedented' global problems

Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives his keynote remarks during the opening ceremony of the 18th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity at the International Convention Center Jeju in Seogwipo City, Jeju Island, South Korea, on Thursday. Photo by Darryl Coote/UPI
1 of 4 | Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives his keynote remarks during the opening ceremony of the 18th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity at the International Convention Center Jeju in Seogwipo City, Jeju Island, South Korea, on Thursday. Photo by Darryl Coote/UPI

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea (UPI) -- Despite their global competition, the United States and China need to find ways to work together to solve the "unprecedented" challenges the world faces, former U.N. head Ban Ki-Moon said Thursday, while suggesting that South Korea could act as a mediator between the two powers.

"There is no time to lose. The United States and China should work together to solve these global challenges," Ban said during his keynote remarks at the opening ceremony of the three-day Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, which officially began a day prior.


Styled to be the Davos of peace forums, the Jeju Forum brings together world leaders, academics and policymakers on South Korea's southernmost resort island of Jeju, located about 60 miles south of the Korean mainland, to discuss the most pressing concerns hindering peace and stability in the region and throughout the world.


Though the theme of this year's event was "Working Together for Sustainable Peace and Prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," the competition between the United States and China dominated discussion as it presents a clear obstacle to achieving solutions to issues ranging from North Korea to the development of Southeast Asia.

"The relationship of the two will cast a long and seismic impact on the international politics in particular in the Indo-Pacific region," Ban said.

The former U.N. secretary-general from 2007 to 2016 said the risk of conflict exploding between the two powers is explained in their view of Taiwan and the East Sea: The United States seeks an open and free Indo-Pacific, supports Taiwan's democracy and views China's actions as seeking to upend the existing security architecture to dominate the region.

China, on the other hand, sees the democratic island of some 23 million as a rogue province and has vowed to take the self-governing province back by force if it must, despite it never being part of the mainland People's Republic of China, which was founded in 1949. It also views the U.S. policy as a threat to that plan while being anti-Beijing.

The acute differences force nations to pick sides, with their diverging foreign investment policies seeking to expand their international influence, Ban said.


But there are several issues they could and should collaborate on, including climate change, terrorism and cybersecurity, Ban said, adding they can also work together to achieve the United Nation's Sustainable Development goals.

"Today, as the unprecedented climate crisis is being felt everywhere around the world, the space for collaboration between the United States and China can be widened," he said.

Ban pointed to his experience as secretary-general during the negotiations over the Paris climate accord that was adopted in 2015 that set global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, among other pledges agreed to by international partners. He said that agreement would not have been possible without former U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"We can find vital spaces for mutual collaboration in these areas," he said.

Ban added that his native South Korea, with its U.S.-style democracy and the traditions it shares with China, could mediate between two.

"We can find the space to mediate the differences between the United States and China," he said. "We can exercise Asian wisdom on mutual accommodation."

Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta mentioned the need for U.S.-China cooperation in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and the wider region.


The Noble Peace laureate stressed that the two "must re-engage at the summit level, agree that strategic competition is inevitable, normal, to be expected even between friends."

"Peace in the Korean Peninsula and wider region should outweigh differences in other areas of competition and rivalry between the two superpowers," he said.

And though South Korea and Japan have recently made strides in strengthening their already deep bonds to Washington, they should still continue exchanges with China.

Concerning Taiwan, he called for foreign powers to refrain from making provocative statements that contradict "the clearly established reality of the One China policy."

"The U.S. and China must manage their economic, trade, scientific, technological and influence-seeking competition so as not to weaken themselves as credible deterrents and guarantors of peace and stability in Asia and beyond," he said.

He said China is the regional superpower and as such should be at the forefront of support for an international rules-based order, but that the same is expected of the United States.

Unlike the other two keynote speakers, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo did not address the conflict directly other than saying as the Indo-Pacific accounts for 62% of GDP, "it is bound to be a center of geopolitical competition," while celebrating the recent thaw of Korea-Japan relations under his President Yoon Suk-yeol administration.


He called China a "major partner" in the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, and that Seoul and Beijing will establish a relationship on the basis of mutual respect with aims to normalize their trilateral relations with Japan.

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