Nuclear Disarmament, Peace

Sanctions and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

by Doug Hostetter
Pax Christi International UN Representative, New York

(The following was presented at the Global Peace Forum on Korea, Columbia University, September 29, 2018, New York City.)

When I was first asked to speak about sanctions and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Global Peace Forum on Korea, I thought that I would cite the experts on effect of the sanctions on the people of the  DPRK, like the recent United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that indicated that 41% of people within the DPRK are undernourished, and 70% are vulnerable to food insecurity and child-stunting equals about 39.4% in all children in the DPRK[1].

I had planned that I would also mention the other ways in which sanctions are changing the country.  In addition to less nutrition, there is also less access to healthcare.  Many major humanitarian NGO’s have been forced to leave the DPRK, including the Global Fund, which over the past eight years gave more than 100 million dollars for life saving treatments of tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria to patients in the DPRK[2]. I would point out that the sanctions have created banking obstacles so great that even serious UN efforts have been unable to provide banking channels for UN agencies and NGOs that do humanitarian programs in the DPRK.

I had intended to go into some detail about the absurdity of the sanctions on the DPRK. Security Council Resolution (s/RES/2397 -22 December 2017, paragraph 7) states:

“Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK … of all industrial machinery (HS codes 84 and 85), transportation vehicles (HS codes 86 through 89), and iron, steel, and other metals (HS codes 72 through 83).”[3]

The sanctions have even been interpreted to include fingernail clippers and simple water filters, which the Mennonite Central Committee has tried unsuccessfully to send to pediatric hospitals in the DPRK.  I had even considered pointing out that the UN sanctions on the DPRK could be considered collective punishment on the people of the DPRK, which, during time of war, is a war crime under the Hague Regulations of 1899 and subsequent Geneva Conventions, most recently, article 33 of the Geneva Conventions IV of 1949[4]. (This is another compelling reason to end the Korean War.)

On reflection, however, I decided that it would be simpler and more useful to look at the issue of efficacy, to see whether sanctions have actually been effective in achieving desired results, or if other measures might in fact be more successful in accomplishing those goals.

Security Council Resolution 1718[5] is quite clear that the goal of the sanctions was to discourage the DPRK from pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and to encourage the DPRK to return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

So, let us compare the accomplishment of the sanctions to the accomplishments of dialogue.

The UN Security Council significantly increased sanctions against the DPRK with Security Council Resolution 1718 on 14 October 2006, five days after the DPRK detonated its first nuclear explosion.  In the past 12 years, the UN Security Council has passed more than ten resolutions sanctioning the DPRK, each resolution more draconian than the previous one.  During those last 12 years of sanctions, the DPRK has detonated five additional nuclear tests, and has continued to improve the power of their missiles from intermediate range rockets in 2006, to intercontinental missiles today, capable of reaching the United States.

Now let us look at the accomplishments of persuasion in just the last nine months.  Chairman Kim Jong-Un, in his New Years speech on January 1, 2018 stated:

“We will open our doors to anyone from south Korea, including the ruling party and opposition parties, organizations and individual personages of all backgrounds, for dialogue, contact and travel, if they sincerely wish national concord and unity. . . As for the Winter Olympic Games to be held soon in South Korea, it will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. From this point of view we are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures; with regard to this matter, the authorities of the north and the south may meet together soon. Since we are compatriots of the same blood as South Koreans, it is natural for us to share their pleasure over the auspicious event and help them.”[6]

Chairman Kim’s New Year’s statement was welcomed by President Moon Jae-in, who immediately invited the DPRK to send athletes from the north to join the Olympics, and even filed a joint women’s hockey team for the 2018 Olympic Games.  Since then, there have been numerous meetings at various levels between the DPRK and ROK, as well as a joint meeting in Singapore between President Trump and Chairman Kim on June 12th earlier this year.

Since January of 2018, the DPRK has suspended all nuclear testing and missile launches, demolished its only nuclear testing sight, and destroyed its rocket engine testing site.  The DPRK has also returned the remains of US military service personnel killed in during the Korean War.  The ROK and DPRK have worked together to establish a liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the DPRK, have established a program for reunifications of Korean families who were separated by the war, and just last week held another inter-Korean summit, the third this year, in Pyongyang. These are only a few of the major changes that have been initiated as the result of dialogue.  It is hard to remember that it was only one year ago, at the opening of the Seventy-Second General Assembly, that President Trump and Chairman Kim were threatening each other with nuclear annihilation.

Since the beginning of time people have been arguing which is stronger, hard power or soft power: the use of force, or the arts of dialogue. There is an ancient Greek fable which tells of an argument between the north wind and the sun as to who was the more powerful.  They argued for many days, each boasting of their superior strength and finally deciding to settle the argument by a contest.  A pilgrim was traveling below so they decided that each would try to remove his coat.  The north wind went first, blowing a gale force wind which nearly tore away the coat, but the pilgrim grabbed his cloak, and the harder the north wind blew, the more tightly the pilgrim wrapped his coat around himself.  When it was the sun’s turn, the wind and the clouds disappeared, and the sun beamed its kind warmth on the pilgrim, who immediately took off his coat.

In the past 12 years, we have witnessed the abject failure of the use of sanctions and military threats to get the DPRK to dismantle its programs for nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles.  It is now time for us to give support to dialogue, already begun by Chairman Kim, President Moon and President Trump, which has produced many positive results , but need to be continued to end the Korean War, lift the sanctions, normalize the relations between the US and the DPRK and establish a Korea Peninsula Nuclear Free Zone – a Korea Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and protected from threat of nuclear attack by international treaty[7].

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[1] UN Resident Coordinator for DPR Korea. “DPR Korea Needs and Priorities March 2018.” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, April 11, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-peoples-republic-korea/dpr-korea-needs-and-priorities-march-2018.
[2] Seung, Kwonjune J. “Why Is the Global Fund Pulling out of North Korea?” NK News – North Korea News. May 02, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.nknews.org/2018/05/why-is-the-global-fund-pulling-out-of-north-korea/.
[3] UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 2397 (2017) [on strengthening measures regarding the supply, sale, or transfer to the DPRK], 11 September 2017, S/RES/2397 (2017), available at: https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/s/res/2397-%282017%29 %5Baccessed 17 September 2018
[4] “Practice Relating to Rule 103. Collective Punishments.” Treaties, States Parties, and Commentaries – Geneva Convention, 1864 – 3 -. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule103
[5] [5] UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 1718  (2006) [on recalling its previous relevant resolutions], 14 October 2006, S/RES/1718 (2006), available at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1718%20%282006%29 %5Baccessed 17 September 2018
[6] “Kim Jong Un’s 2018 New Year’s Address.” NCNK. January 01, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.ncnk.org/node/1427.
[7] See also Pax Christi International’s statement of 12 June 2018: https://www.paxchristi.net/news/statement-todays-historic-meeting-between-donald-trump-and-kim-jong-un-key-points-be-included.
Peace

A commentary on the Panmunjom Declaration

by Caesar D’Mello
Pax Christi Australia

Very few events in the life of the Asia-Pacific region during the last few decades match in significance the hand-in-hand walk of the leaders of North and South Korea over the strip of land at the 38th parallel on 27 April 2018. While a certain level of cynicism is to be expected, and self-interest no doubt played a part, the symbolism of that action is astonishing nevertheless, and its implications potentially far-reaching.

Who could have thought that after a bitterly fought Korean War (1950-1953) between the two Koreas, and one involving China and the US, the world would witness such a moment? To truly appreciate what might have been considered unlikely by most till the day it actually occurred, one only needs to picture the setting in which it took place. After a ferocious war that generated no peace but an uneasy and ever volatile stalemate, the enmity between the two sides remained frozen in institutionalised structures and hostilities designed to perpetuate the red hot anger of a war in which more than 3 million sacrificed their lives in vain. The land on either side of the 4 kilometre-wide strip of land that has come to be known as the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) is a testament to hate: ringed by barbed wire, saturated with land mines, under surveillance by human and all forms of electronic eyes, supported by the Korean forces on either side, with the might of the two superpowers providing additional military muscle. The line over which Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in crossed, metaphorically and physically entering each other’s forbidden territory, was situated right at the heart of this menacing stretch of land least the oriented to good relations. However, their gesture, and the liberating exchange between them, despite the implausibility, demonstrated the capacity of human beings to overcome the most odious of circumstances.

Time will tell how this unprecedented event will play out into prospects and outcomes for peace for the two peoples of Korea and the world at large, but for now it is a moment worth celebrating. Even if re-unification of the Korean nation is a long time coming or does not eventuate eventually, at least for the immediate future the ground has shifted to allow a move from a prism of continually stoked confrontation through which to see each other to one of friendship and optimism for peace. Trivial though it may seem, the decision, for instance, by North Korea to synchronise their clocks with South Korea’s is potent symbolically, and, in its own way, a good portent for the future.

In light of the multiple positives that can be identified in the Panmunjom summit, Pax Christi Asia-Pacific asserts that one cannot just view the developments of a few days ago as if looking at goldfish in a fishbowl without relevance to the context of the wider region. To say that the Asia-Pacific region is awash with conflicts would be an understatement. From Iran and Afghanistan all the way to Papua New Guinea and beyond, governments, defence forces, warring groups, and their advocates are bogged down in hostility and combat. They are now challenged to find inspiration for ways forward applicable to their own situations to tread the path of peace from the actions in Korea of two of the most implacable of adversaries.

It is to be welcomed that just as the two Korean leaders were the centre of attention of the world’s media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Xi Jin Ping of China were participating in talks to reduce the tension between their two giant countries that had been exacerbated by skirmishes on the borders between India, China and Bhutan just a few recent months earlier. Pax Christi Asia-Pacific acknowledges this as a commendable step, and hopes that it will lead to many confidence and trust-building deliberations as a precursor to lasting peace.

Another major conflict that has been entrenched in prejudice and intransigence for over seven decades is that between India and Pakistan over Kashmir that has already resulted in three wars with many killed. Its gravity is now further deepened as the two sides are nuclear-armed with the ability to inflict massive devastation on each other’s people, whose welfare and safety should be paramount in decision-making. How long should we wait before we can see a generous, visionary, mutually benefiting resolution on this front?

The Asia-Pacific is teeming with internal conflicts in big and small countries, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, PNG, Fiji, to name a few countries. Forward looking leadership, in the spirit of Panmunjom, is urgently called for in these countries.

Pax Christi Asia Pacific is concerned over the opportunity costs of the focus, energy, and resources dedicated to a war or conflict drained away from more important issues, such as the quality of life. It is indefensible that the vast majority of the poor miss out as a result. The extent of poverty pervading many parts of Asia-Pacific where conflict rages is unjustifiable, and it is morally urgent that widespread inequity be addressed effectively. This has been agreed to at a global level. The world’s governments, including Asian and Pacific governments, by unanimously adopting the UN Sustainable Development Goals – SDG’s (www.globalgoals.org) have accepted that a world wherein a great number of people are unable to even reach or do just reach the first level in Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’, encompassing food, water, shelter, clothing, and safety, is an indictment of the prevailing system that harbours wasteful confrontations. While external and internal security is indeed the duty of governments, they have to balance this transparently and imaginatively with the obligation to look after those who miss out on the wherewithal for survival and a better life.

A Just Peace emphasising mutual respect, healing and reconciliation is far more productive of a dignified living for all rather than the shadow of conflict. However, for this to evolve requires proactive leadership from both disputing sides. While we mark the Panmunjom Summit as a historic landmark in human affairs, the persistent efforts of the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, to cultivate an environment for peace should also be noted. The tree of peace that both leaders planted during their Summit speaks volumes in terms of the human ability to fashion a better world. Other leaders in history have shown that this is possible, including an iconic one in recent memory, namely Nelson Mandela, whose 100th birth anniversary falls this year.

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Caesar D’Mello is a member of Pax Christi Australia and has for many years been engaged in concerns of development, peace, and climate change. This commentary is released by the Pax Christi-Asia Pacific network, consisting of sections and affiliated members of Pax Christi International in the Asia-Pacific region. For more information, please contact: paxchristiasiapacific@gmail.com.

* Photo from The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Moon-Kim-Handshake-rtr-img.jpg
Peace

The North-South Summit: Why not hope?

by Nick Mele
Pax Christi International Washington, D.C. Working Group

Almost all coverage of the North-South Korean Summit on April 27, 2018, cautioned against expecting too much to come from the meeting of the two leaders or the joint statement released at the conclusion of their meeting. I understand the reasons for skepticism but I also hear the voice of a South Korean defense expert telling me almost 30 years ago that the only true statement about the North-South divide is that when it ends, it will be a total surprise. Those words resonated as I watched the video of Chairman Kim Jong-un inviting President Moon Jai-in to step across the line of stones marking the border of the two entities. Their little dance was a surprise to everyone, and their statement offers reason to hope for more.

The statement’s first set of points concern the improvement of North-South relations and connections. Much of this has been said before, but some good came of previous dialogues, including a number of carefully orchestrated family visits across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Other agreements are new though built on past progress, like the pledge to open a joint liaison office in “the Gaeseong region”, that is, the historically and culturally significant former capital of the Koryo dynasty which is a center of light industry and has been an area of South Korean investment in the North. The idea of dialogue between the two Koreas began to take shape in 1972 when South Korea’s Park Chung Hee secretly sent the head of the Korean intelligence apparatus to the North, the first in a series of meetings and summits leading up to this latest one. Previous agreements opened up the North to trade and investment from the South, allowed limited visits of families, and addressed other steps; each led to further dialogue. Inter-Korean relations have improved since 1972, and we should remember that progress came through talks like the latest summit.

The second point seeks to address ongoing military tensions along the demarcation line between North and South Korea. Propaganda broadcasts and leaflet scattering have stopped in the past, but the statement also promises frequent meetings between military authorities up to the two countries’ Defense Ministers. It again builds on past progress and could change the dynamic of the Military Armistice Commission meetings regularly held at Panmunjom by offering a second, Korea-to-Korea channel for dealing with disputes involving military personnel and actions.

The third area of agreement is to end the Korean War. The leaders of the two Koreas committed to work toward a peace treaty and to build trust through a series of confidence building measures, such as the proposed liaison office, the reopening of a rail line across the DMZ, and step-by-step disarmament. Commentators critiqued the idea of a separate peace, but neglected to mention that the joint statement addresses that issue directly: “…South and North Korea agreed to actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States and China with a view to declaring an end to the War and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.”

Finally, the statement talks about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The history of efforts to negotiate with North Korea is not as hopeless or one-sided as it is usually portrayed—the North Korean government has halted its program in the past, for example. From the initial White House reaction to the statement and the summit, it seems there is an opening for progress on the nuclear issue. Moreover, if the U.S. agrees to a peace treaty and offers written assurance that it will not peremptorily attack North Korea, it would support the inter-Korean cooperation and confidence-building measures outlined in the joint statement. So, with eyes open, why not hope for continued progress toward peace?

After twenty five years as a U.S. diplomat, Nick Mele retired to pursue peace outside of government. A faith-based activist, he has worked as a nonviolence trainer for Pax Christi USA; as a founding staff member for the Nonviolent Peaceforce; and as the Pax Christi representative to the Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9, an international group working to reduce militarism and armaments in the Asia-Pacific region.

Peace

The dangerous game of North Korean-American brinkmanship

by Tony Magliano

Remember the game of chicken?

It’s a foolishly high-stakes challenge in which two drivers risking death, drive on a collision course towards each other until one of the drivers chooses to swerve away.

Since neither driver wants to be called “chicken,” meaning coward, they both push the decision to swerve away to the last possible moment, each hoping that the other driver will be the one to back down and swerve away.

This is a very dangerous game – a game now being played between North Korea and the United States.

But in this game of chicken the high-stakes of two possible deaths increases to hundreds of thousands of probable deaths. And if it goes nuclear, the stakes rise to millions dead.

During the course of this year North Korea has launched over 20 missiles – some flying over Japan – and according to seismic readings may have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. And if not already, it is getting close to being able to hit the U.S. with one or more nuclear armed missiles…

Click here to read the entire column.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Peace

What to do about North Korea

by Nick Mele
Pax Christi International Washington, DC Working Group

In his speech at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump stirred controversy and concern with pronouncements on a number of issues. His remarks on North Korea were most provocative: “…if (the United States) is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Leave aside the insult to the leader of North Korea; that is just a distraction. What got my attention was what Mr. Trump said just before threatening to destroy North Korea. He pointedly criticized other nations, clearly meaning China and Russia, saying, “It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict. No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.”

His criticism is counterproductive, especially since both China and Russia are as averse to a nuclear-armed North Korea—on their borders—as the U.S. Note that Mr. Trump speaks as though it were possible to somehow talk North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons and, presumably, its nuclear research programs. This is simply unrealistic in the current situation. As the North Korean government has repeatedly made clear over decades, it is interested in nuclear technology for two reasons. The first is to deter U.S. aggression against the country and the second is to provide energy to generate electricity. The peaceful use of nuclear technology is often overlooked but it was a part of the 1994 Agreed Framework and deserves attention if only because  the Framework agreement aimed at treating North Korean and international concerns as comprehensively as possibly. Whatever one thinks about peaceful uses of nuclear technology, it is clear the North Koreans need non-fossil fuel energy sources.

More relevant to Mr. Trump’s remarks, North Korea said over and over in the negotiations before the 1994 agreement and in discussions since that its primary concern was to gain U.S. recognition of its right to exist as an independent nation and credible assurances that the U.S. and its allies would not attack North Korea. To date, the U.S. has not adequately addressed these North Korean concerns, although the Clinton Administration was moving in that direction when the election of George W. Bush resulted in a change in direction for U.S. policy.

Now might be a good time for the world to accept the reality that North Korea has joined the short list of nuclear-armed states and adjust policies to this new reality. What might that mean? Diplomacy and negotiation rather than threats, for one thing; U.S. actions to match new verbal assurances that we will not attack the North unprovoked; confidence-building steps, perhaps starting with establishing liaison offices in both Pyongyang and Washington; consultations and cooperation with China and Russia, as well as with Japan and South Korea; and to help forestall other nations that might follow the North Korean path, a renewed commitment to nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-armed nations, particularly China, Russia and the U.S.

For those of us working for a world without war, the time has come to act. For a start, we should inform ourselves about the numbers of nuclear weapons deployed and/or stockpiled by all the nuclear powers and then ensure full media coverage of those numbers and of the security, environmental and human costs of nuclear stockpiles. We should also take every opportunity, like Mr. Trump’s remarks on September 19, to talk with politicians, friends, family and neighbors and acquaint them with the facts, including the failure of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent nations from acquiring nuclear weapons. Also, to make them aware that the majority of UN states have now adopted a UN Treaty banning nuclear weapons, that way giving a signal that they want the elimination of these weapons, while NATO states and its allies have opposed such progress. An information campaign is the necessary prelude to a popular campaign for nuclear disarmament. The Nobel Prize Committee’s choice of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize is another good sign that the time is ripe to raise the issue of nuclear disarmament. Let’s get to work!

After twenty five years as a U.S. diplomat, Nick Mele retired to pursue peace outside of government. A faith-based activist, he has worked as a nonviolence trainer for Pax Christi USA; as a founding staff member for the Nonviolent Peaceforce; and as the Pax Christi representative to the Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9, an international group working to reduce militarism and armaments in the Asia-Pacific region.