Korea

Gavan McCormack: North Korea and a Rules-Based Order for the Indo-Pacific, East Asia, and the World (Japan Focus)

Two main sets of proposals now rest on global tables: that by the US and its allies, notably Japan and Australia, demanding North Korean submission as precondition for any negotiation, and the call for freeze and negotiations, such as proposed by China and Russia and supported by other states such as Germany and France and by prominent US figures such as former Defense Secretary William Perry.
As China’s Foreign Minister put it in May 2017, the latter proposal entails

“that, as a first step, the DPRK suspend its missile and nuclear activities in exchange for a halting of large-scale US-ROK military exercises. This ‘double suspension’ approach can help us break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the table.”

North Korea for at least the past several decades has sought talks on resolving its highly abnormal situation. What it wants, according to Jimmy Carter, ex-president and presidential envoy who negotiated a way through the crisis of 1994, is a peace treaty with the United States and an end to economic sanctions…
The stance of the US and its allies in threatening, denouncing, and refusing to negotiate is patently illegal and criminal…
In a remarkable 6-7 September 2017 meeting that passed almost unnoticed in the Western and Japanese media, the two Koreas (South and North), Japan, Russia and China met at Vladivostok under the auspices of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), a relatively new (established in 2015) Russian initiative to promote the development of its Eastern zone. The five states (absent only the United States) of the Beijing Six Party Conference proceeded in low key, consensual mode, to endorse (or in the case of North Korea at least “not oppose”) what has been called the Putin plan. It dealt essentially with economic cooperation, railways and pipelines, but its implications are far from mundane.
The Vladivostok parties looked to open multiple lines of cooperation and communication across North Korea, extending Siberian oil and gas pipelines to the two Koreas and Japan and opening railways and ports linking them across Siberia to China, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. South Korea’s President Moon projected his understanding of this within the frame of what he called “Northeast Asia-plus,” which involved construction of “nine bridges of cooperation” (gas, railroads, ports, electricity, a northern sea route, shipbuilding, jobs, agriculture, and fisheries), embedding the Korean peninsula in the frame of the Russian and Chinese-led BRICS, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Shanghai Cooperation Organiziation (SCO) organizations, extending and consolidating those vast, China- and Russia-centred geo-political and economic groupings.

Joseph Essertier: North Korea: The Deafening Silence around the Moon-Putin Plan (CounterPunch)

As the world hurtles ever closer to war in Asia, there is an Alice-in-Wonderland media narrative that has North Korea as the aggressor that must be controlled and punished at all costs. And in the face of that narrative, the deafening silence of intellectuals is starting to bear a remarkable resemblance to appeasement…
One could be forgiven for not having heard of it since it disrupts the standard “North-Korea-Problem” narrative, but there is a realistic solution to the crisis that liberal and progressive appeasers are keeping silent about. This is the Moon-Putin Plan unveiled in September in Vladivostok. President Moon outlined it as nine “bridges” of cooperation linking South Korea to Russia via North Korea—“gas, railroads, ports, electricity, a northern sea route, shipbuilding, jobs, agriculture, and fisheries.” Siberian oil and gas pipelines would be extended to Korea, both North and South, as well as to Japan. Both Koreas would be linked up with the vast rail networks of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, including high-speed rail, and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes the Trans-Siberian Railway. In the words of Gavan McCormack, “North Korea would accept the security guarantee of the five (Japan included), refrain from any further nuclear or missile testing, shelve (‘freeze’) its existing programs and gain its longed for ‘normalization’ in the form of incorporation in regional groupings, the lifting of sanctions and normalized relations with its neighbour states, without surrender.” This Moon-Putin Plan has the potential to satisfy all the states involved, possibly even the US. One would think, “Done deal. Problem solved.” Yet mainstream journalists in Japan and English-speaking countries have largely ignored it, and even very few non-mainstream journalists have covered it.

Bruce Cumings, Nermeen Shaykh, Amy Goodman: North and South Korean Leaders Agree to Direct Negotiations as Trump Provokes Kim Jong-un on Twitter (Democracy Now)

[T]he tone of Kim Jong-un’s statement … was very conciliatory toward the South and was followed up by a high official who was even more conciliatory, talking about North Korea’s hopes for the South Korean Winter Olympics going well. And, of course, Kim Jong-un offered to send a delegation to the Olympics…
And secondly, he said something that North Korean officials have been saying for the last six months without a lot of attention. And that is words to the effect that their nuclear program is nearly completed, which would mean they don’t have to test so much…
[T]he Trump administration was very opposed to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea’s proposals for talks… [T]he Trump administration position is that there can be no talks until North Korea commits to denuclearization…
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday …: “We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea. We consider this to be a very reckless regime. We don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture. We think that we need to have them stop nuclear weapons, and they need to stop it now. So, North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the U.S. is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it, until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have.”

Wada Haruki: The US-North Korean Crisis and Japan’s Responsibility (Japan Focus)
Andrew Salmon: South, North Korea to talk after military drills postponed (Asia Times)

North Korea has agreed to South Korea’s proposal for “high-level” inter-Korean talks at the truce village of Panmunjeom next Tuesday, Jan. 9, as a series of rapid rapprochement moves ahead of the Winter Olympics gain momentum.
The North Korean acceptance was delivered early Friday, the morning after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed, during a late-night (Korea-time) phone call Thursday to suspend military exercises during the Winter Olympics, set for Pyeonchang, South Korea, in February.

Andrew Salmon: North Korea offers ‘gift’ as inter-Korean talks start in DMZ (Asia Times)

The discussions are the first high-level negotiations between the Koreas since 2015, and the first of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration, which took power in May 2017.
The talks follow North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s customary New Year’s message, during which he said that his state would “mass-produce” nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but also offered a surprise olive branch – suggesting immediate inter-Korean talks, and wishing the South a successful Olympics.

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