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Northern nation cooperation blends East and West ideas, capital and technology.

KARII MOTTOLA OF FINLAND ONCE DEFINED THE artic as"a blending of old and new where a new frontier of human ingenuity and economic conquests meets with the age-old indigenous habitation and modern scientific developments within an extremely sensitive envirornment.'

Eight circumpolar nations share the Arctic, and several other countries have vested financial, scientific, cultural and security interests there. An area known to different people as a warehouse of natural resources, a mecca for scientific endeavors or a home to indigenous populations, the Arctic has been a sort of treasure chest guarded by security interests from World War II until last year.

But recent movements toward democratic institutions and marketplace economies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have altered the security concerns in the Soviet Arctic, paving the way for exploration in economic development ventures. This northern portion of the world now is becoming a forum for experimentation of Far Eastern capital and for advancing technological innovations.

Beginning in 1971, a series of regional conferences have promoted exchanges among peoples of northern nations. The original concept of these conferences was developed by former Gov. Naohiro Dogakinai of Hokkaido Island, Japan, to focus on developing an economy and culture appropriate to northern living. Since the initial 1971 Northern Regions Conference on the Human Environment,' officials in Hokkaido have collaborated with semigovernment and non-government bodies to promote exchanges in the North and have expressed strong interest in seeing the conference series continued.

In September, Alaska will hold the third northern regions conference entitled Cooperation in a Changing World. "Five hundred international guests, including delegates from Japan, South Korea and Northern China, will join with Scandinavians, Canadians and Americans to examine the 1990s and discuss models of regional cooperation.

Global changes have offered Alaskans an opportunity to host a unique forum. Until this year, the majority of conferences on the North did not include the one nation with the greatest pereentage of land in northern latitudes, the Soviet Union. The state's ties with that nation place it in a key brokering role between Asian interests-particularly in developing natural resources for resource-hungry Japan and South Korea - and the Soviets.

The Japanese and their Soviet neighbors have an ongoing territorial dispute over ownership of the Kuril Islands (currently in Soviet territory). Each of these neighboring countries has something the other needs: the Japanese, capital and technology; the Soviets, resources. How this relationship progresses will have serious implications for security issues and economic development in the North Pacific nations: the Soviet Union, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

In November, when Gov. Steve Cowper invited a representative group of officials from 11 nations to begin organizing the third northern regions conference, the delegation from Hokkaido was forced to face the reality of a broader scope in the traditionally narrow conference agenda. The Soviets were interested in playing a major role in the conference event that previously has been the exclusive territory of the North Pacific, not the Arctic.

The planning session involved two days of intensive meetings designed to identify current issues in northern international relations and to focus on a single theme. After long hours of deliberation, the group selected the theme of regional cooperation in a changing world.

The Japanese waited until the final moments of the planning session and calmly but firmly stated their objections to the breadth and scope of the conference. They argued the event should focus on the human environment and include mainly government officials. In an effort to accommodate the Japanese concerns, several structural changes were made to the schedule and focus.

Each nation's national identity and negotiating style emerged in the course of the planning session. Alaska, a state with long-standing ties to Japan, will play matchmaker to these various interests and exchanges in the conference. Perhaps the third northern regions conference will construct new bridges joining nations, continents, peoples.

About the conference: From Sept. 16-20 in Anchorage, the Third Northern Regions Conference: Cooperation in a Changing World" will provide an international forum to explore the nature of business development in the North. Private sector participation is encouraged.

A series of panel talks, plenary sessions and workshops will examine political and social issues, existing industries, emerging industries, joint ventures, sources of capital, market trends and technology development and exchange. Also the Governor's Summit will explore regional mechanisms for cooperation in environmental arenas.

For more information, contact Ginna Brelsford, 561-2260; fax: 561-4577.
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Author:Brelsford, Ginna; Poe, Robert
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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