A Korean Summit - the right move at the right time
A Korean Summit - the right move at the right time
In December it was reported that the “America is drawing up plans for a “bloody nose” military attack on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons programme.”
As things are turning out it is America who is getting a snubbed, if not bloody, nose. “Pence’s Anti-North Korea PR Campaign Bombs,” as New York magazine has put it. His actions at the opening of the winter Olympics appeared crass and impolite. In this he was symbolic of the Trump administration; the American people deserve better
Be this as it may, Washington is being sidelined by of the leaders of the Korean nation who, with admirable sophistication, are jointly taking tentative steps to break out from the American yoke.
In lengthy discussions with North Korean diplomatic and other government officials stretching back over the past ten years I have on more than one occasion been told that the North does not need a third party or mediator for them to deal with South Korea. “We can and do work with them, when the timing is right,” as one Ambassador put it to me.
In his recent New Year speech Kim Jong-un signaled that the timing is right:
“This year we will mark the 45th anniversary of the historic July 4 Joint Statement and the 10th anniversary of the October 4 Declaration. This year we should open up a broad avenue to independent reunification through a concerted effort of the whole [Korean] nation.
Positive measures should be taken to improve inter-Korean relations, avoid acute military confrontation and remove the danger of war between north and south.
The improvement of inter-Korean relations is the starting-point for peace and reunification, and it is a pressing demand of the whole nation.”
What was Kim Jong-un Referring to and Why is the Timing Right?
There have been two high level official meetings and two summits between the South and the North over the past five decades. The first of these was ‘The July 4 1972 South-North Joint Communiqué’.
Signed by both sides, the Communiqué expressed a desire for unification and how this could be achieved as follows:
“The two sides agreed on the following principles as a basis of achieving unification:
First, unification shall be achieved independently, without depending on foreign powers and without foreign interference.
Second, unification shall be achieved through peaceful means, without resorting to the use of force against each other.
Third, a great national unity as one people shall be sought first, transcending differences in ideas, ideologies, and systems.”
The most recent meeting was the October 4 2007 summit when President Roh Moo-hyun accompanied by his staff officer Moon Jae-in travelled to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong-il.
The resultant “Declaration for Development of North-South Relations and Peace and Prosperity” stated that:
The north and the south agreed to definitely convert the north-south relations into those of mutual respect and confidence irrespective of differing ideologies and systems.
The north and the south agreed to closely cooperate with each other in the efforts to put an end to the hostile military relations and ensure détente and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
From Pyongyang’s point of view, the timing is now right for a number of reasons.
• They feel confident that they have an ICBM and miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of reaching the America and can therefore speak from a position of strength without fear of an attack from the United States.
• United States policy is in disarray under a weak, incompetent President.
• Within their socialized system they have restructured their economy so as to be able to do business and trade with the rest of the world. Besides controlled development of markets, this has included teaching English from primary school onwards.
• South Korea’s Democratic President Moon Jae-in has signaled his desire to talk via his July 2017 Berlin speech in which he stated: “We already know the road that leads to a peaceful Korean Peninsula. It is returning to the June 15 Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4Declaration.”
• The winter Olympics provide a suitable stage on which the two Koreas can make their first moves.
Why is the United States not Keen on a Korean Summit?
How is it that while the rest of the world applauds, the United States and Japan are vilifying North Korea more vociferously than normal and attempting to obstruct dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang.?
The United States has 78,000 military personnel in some 140 bases located in South Korea and Japan, supposedly to counter an aggressive North Korea. The South Korean and Japanese people do not like this, but tolerate the foreign troop’s because they have been conned into believing that North Korea is a threat.
The real reason why the United States maintains these bases is to have a presence close to China, but they do not want to openly state this. By demonizing North Korea they are able to maintain the fiction of a North Korean threat and thus maintain their bases.
The cost of maintaining these troops and bases costs billions of dollars per year, a large portion of which flows through to private sector defense contractors, all of whom are generous financial supporters of both Republican and Democratic party politicians.
Washington knows that if the two Koreas were to agree to go ahead with their June 15 and October 4Declarations and end hostilities, it would only be a matter of time before the South Korean and Japanese populations would demand that the United States bases on their soils be closed and the American troops go home.
In Japan, fanatically hard right Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has fanned up fear and hatred of North Korea as a means to justifying his re-militarization programme.
For these reasons, the United States and Japan will be placing inordinate pressure on President Moon Jae-in to not accept Kim Jong-un’s invitation to visit.
Rectifying a Disaster
It has been disastrous for all Koreans, South and North, that the United Nations allowed itself to be manipulated into adopting United States foreign policy in June 1950 and ever since.
In recent years, to avoid peace and the loss of the South Korean and Japanese bases, it has been the United States policy (aided and abetted by a complicit United Nations Security Council) to isolate and sanction North Korea. The reasoning is that if nobody is talking to North Korea the risk of peace is minimized.
Common sense and natural justice dictate that the two Koreas should be able to negotiate peace and reunification “independently, without depending on foreign powers and without foreign interference,” as agreed to in the July 4 1972 Communiqué.
What Should New Zealand do?
It is to New Zealand’s great shame that we have allowed ourselves to be blindly carried along on the tide of United States misinformation. Instead of working for peace in Korea while on the Security Council, New Zealand actively advocated and supported increased isolation and sanctions. These are the tools of war, not of peace.
Fortunately the tide is now turning and the Korean leaders themselves are taking steps towards peace.
New Zealand should recognize what is happening and publicly encourage the two Koreas to independently sort come to an accommodation..
Further, as a concrete sign that New Zealand is for peace not war, the Minister of Foreign Affairs should immediately restore full diplomatic relations with North Korea.
NZ DPRK Society
Peter Wilson is a humanitarian worker with 40 years of experience working on field projects in Asia, including food production in North Korea.