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Korean and Japanese bishops call for talks over nuclear tensions

Senior clerics say regional peace and stability cannot be guaranteed by weapons and militarization.

 
Tokyo: 

Korean and Japanese bishops have called for political and military leaders in Northeast Asia to establish peace through dialogue as tensions rise in the region over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

A joint statement, "Hope for Peace in Northeast Asia," signed by 21 Korean and 15 Japanese bishops, was signed on the last day of their annual exchange meeting held Nov. 14-16 in Kirishima city, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

A senior Beijing envoy, Song Tao, who heads the ruling Chinese Communist Party's international department, visited Pyongyang Nov. 17 to brief North Korean officials on the recently concluded Communist Party Congress in China, raising speculation he was there to discuss nuclear weapons issues.

In recent months, Beijing has had only limited high-level exchanges with North Korea. But in the past it has repeatedly pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them.

Song's trip came a week after U.S. President Donald Trump visited Beijing where he pressed for greater action to rein in North Korea, especially from China, with which North Korea does 90 percent of its trade.

"Northeast Asian countries are seeking stability and prosperity built on their military power by cooperating with or forming alliances with other major powers of the same political system," the bishops said in the statement, signed before the Chinese envoy's visit.

"This creates threats to the security of each nation and is causing tension today. All of us should realize that a true peace cannot be guaranteed by nuclear armaments or militarization."

The bishops stressed that "people in both countries should remember the fact that the poor and the environment continue to suffer while astronomical sums of money are spent on armaments."

The theme of the 23rd Korean-Japanese Bishops' Colloquium was "The Elderly and the Church." Both countries are suffering from serious problems related to low birth rates and aging populations.

In South Korea, almost half of its elderly population over the age of 65 live in poverty, according to a 2016 OECD economic survey. About a quarter live alone and many struggle with isolation and depression.

Sister Theophano Lee Kye-yeong of the Little Servants of the Holy Family briefed the bishops about the situation in South Korea. She said that 49.6 percent of elderly people are poor, and one out of four of the elderly must collect scrap paper to support themselves. Moreover, there are many elderly people who "go on pilgrimage" to Protestant and Catholic churches to beg for small change from early morning each day.

"Korean elders are facing dangers of abuse and lonely death. In addition, on average, 10.6 people commit suicide every day," she said.

Prof. Yasuhiro Yuki of Japan's Shukutoku University said the situation in Japan, was marked by loneliness, sudden deaths and an increasing number of dementia patients. He showed the bishops a Singaporean TV program on elderly deaths in Japan, which showed shocking scenes of maggot-infested rooms.

Source: UCAN

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