The question as to whether the DPRK is willing to engage in broad dialogue with potential international partners has been answered. Last week, the DPRK sent an open letter to multiple governments, including the US ally, Australia, in which Pyongyang asked to form a united front against Donald Trump’s aggressive stance towards Pyongyang. Australia, in taking an overly literal reading of North Korea’s letter, threw away a chance to reply to Pyongyang. Had Australia engaged with Pyongyang, this would have literally been the beginning of dialogue between North Korea and a staunch US ally in the Pacific. The short-sighted attitude of the Canberra demonstrates that when North Korea does reach out to countries in an unexpected way, this attempt to establish lines of dialogue is essentially met with a cynical and obstinate attitude that doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Dialogue is never easy in such situations, but all countries owe it to the wider cause of world peace to try. Australia foolishly read North Korea’s letter as a kind of ‘geo-political prank’, where in fact it was a thorny olive branch.
While North Korea has recently stated that they will not negotiate their nuclear programme until Pyongyang possesses the ability to strike all of the US mainland with nuclear missiles, the reality behind such dramatic remarks is far more mundane.
All negotiations in difficult situations have a cat and mouse element to them, with the roles of feline and rodent, often swapping by the day, if not by the hour. North Korea’s actions are often far more reasonable than their words. The fact that the DPRK did reach out to a US ally, demonstrates that they are ready for dialogue now. The fault here therefore lies with those who refused to respond.
Furthermore, with North Korea months away from reaching the final stage of its nuclear development, by Pyongyang’s own admission, the treat to refrain from dialogue until such a state is reached, is becoming increasingly moot in any case.
While it is impossible to independently verify the DPRK’s internal nuclear timeline, there is no reason not to test the waters and begin attempts to negotiate in both good faith and more importantly, with pragmatism. This statement applies to all potential negotiating partners.
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The truth of the matter is that North Korea is not going to forego its nuclear programme at this point in time, in spite of any attempted efforts by others to change this, even from traditional partners. The world must come to accept that a nuclear North Korea is a fact of life and rather than risk provoking a nuclear war in trying to change this, instead, one should approach North Korea under the assumption that it will be a nuclear power for the foreseeable future and all that can be established through negotiations is the nature of the DPRK’s nuclear reality.
In this respect, what North Korea needs is a regional peace treaty and additionally, negotiating partners should work with North Korea to return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a nuclear country, but one which joins its nuclear neighbors Russia and China, in promoting the responsible maintenance of nuclear weapons.
This is the only peaceful and realistic solution to the crisis and it is one that can and should be augmented with the Russia offer to both Korean states to engage in tripartite economic cooperation with Russia. While Russia and China are opposed to North Korea’s nuclear programme, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in public that he understands its justification, based on the precedents of Iraq and Libya, two countries that were obliterated by NATO due to their lack of weapon of mass destruction. In this sense, Russia has tacitly admitted that there is a real deterrent value to the DPRK’s weapons, even while working to try and reduce tensions and reach an accord for a Korean peace process.
The world is reaching a point of no return with North Korea, just as it did in respect of nuclear weapons in India, Pakistan and Israel, three countries that have a far more realistic chance of using their nuclear weapons than North Korea, because unlike North Korea which is in the midst of a frozen conflict, India, Pakistan and Israel have had decades-long, hot conflicts with neighbouring states. If the world can learn to pragmatically live with three non-signatories to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) having nuclear weapons, than surely, a similar status quo could be reached with North Korea, a former signatory to the NPT and one which has in the past, shown signs that under certain conditions, it could return to the NPT.
Hence, all responsible countries should open up channels of communication to North Korea, without preconceived notions, dogmas or ultimatums. The penultimate understanding guiding such negotiations is that the DPRK should rejoin the NPT and no country should ever again threaten North Korea. In many ways, even China would have to go some way towards compromise on this as Beijing would like to see both sides of the Korean peninsula de-weaponized. However, China’s position here, while ideal, is also at this stage in time, unrealistic because of Pyongyang’s desire to maintain a deterrent to the very real threat of US aggression.
Whereas China feels betrayed by Pyongyang’s weapons programme, Russia, while condemning it, tends to take a more practical approach, one which if successfully put into practice, China could embrace as a partner. In this sense, it would help to see the NPT as a Korean gateway to One Belt–One Road and the overall spirit of One Belt–One Road is one of bringing peace to the wider world through mutual prosperity creating initiatives. There is no reason why either Korean state should ultimately not reap these benefits. If Russia can help to transform North Korea into a responsible nuclear power, Russia could also convince China to join in a peace process which involves promoting a harmonious Korea through economic outreach in the form of a tributary of One Belt–One Road.
Once again, the US is the biggest obstacle to such a pragmatic peace process for the following reasons:
- the US is not interested in China expanding One Belt–One Road, nor is Washington interested in Russia expanding its commercial endeavors into East Asia.
- the US generates money by feeding its domestic weapons makers cash in order to then, ‘give’ expensive arms to South Korea
- the US sees a weaponized Korean peninsula as an opportunity to distract China from her peaceful economic activities by parking a nuclear-frozen conflict on her doorstep
- Now though, the US has taken its peace averse attitude a step further as the perpetually unhinged CIA director Mike Pompeo, has made another ludicrous and provocative statement.
In a recent statement, Pompeo talked brazenly about assassinating Kim Jong-un. The CIA director stated,
With respect to … if Kim Jong-un should vanish, given the history of the CIA, I’m just not going to talk about it.
Someone might think there was a coincidence. ‘You know, there was an accident.’ It’s just not fruitful”.
Pompeo then ominously stated that the CIA is “going to become a much more vicious agency”.
Pompeo’s statements will be seen by North Korea as yet a further sign that the US does not seek peace, but in fact seeks yet another illegal overthrow of a head of state. With someone like Pompeo engaging in Dr. Strangelove style rhetoric against North Korea, is it really unreasonable to assume that North Korea should want to expand its deterrent against a US which is openly promising acts of illegal violence against North Korea?
This is not the first ludicrous thing Pompeo has stated. He previously said that Russia and the Lebanese party Hezbollah are operating in Venezuela, in combined efforts to harm the US. He also stated that the publisher and peace activist Julian Assange would have supported Hitler in the 1930s and 1940s. Pompeo also said that Russia’s current Chief of the General Staff invented the concept of RT and Sputnik, one which relies on the power of the internet in 2017, in the early 1970s when he was in his late teens and still in the equivalent of high school. Finally, Trump’s CIA director stated that Russia not only rigged Donald Trump’s election but also did so with Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.
When it comes to being a danger to world peace and totally out of touch with basic facts in the process, Mike Pompeo fits this description far more than the North Korean leadership.
North Korea is looking for assurances and Pyongyang’s actions indicate it is also looking for dialogue in various forms. Mike Pompeo is looking to make the CIA even more aggressive and lawless than it already is. Against this backdrop, is it any wonder that the crisis on the Korean peninsula continues to smoulder?
Top photo | The CIA later released a letter that Pompeo, who has a law degree from Harvard, wrote to a university official. Pompeo said an appearance would betray the trust of CIA employees and stressed that his decision had nothing to do with Manning’s transgender identity. (Flickr: Gage Skidmore)
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