The positive signs currently coming from the Korean Peninsula, and especially from North Korea, are definitely encouraging.
In fact, the 23rd Winter Olympics, scheduled for February 9-25, will take place in the Pyeongchiang County, which is located in South Korea, or in what is officially called Republic of Korea.
Since the designation of South Korea in June 2017, the International Olympic Committee has always said explicitly it wanted North Korea to participate officially in the Winter Olympics. Hence it has obviously welcomed – although with some surprise – North Korea’s announcement of the “probable” sending of a small team of ice skaters.
Indeed, North Korea’s luge athletes and skiers had not technically qualified for the Olympics.
From the beginning, South Korea had proposed a joint team for all the specialties in South Korea’s Olympics. It had also suggested to North Korea a joint women’s team for ice hockey, as well as the sharing of costs for the participation of both countries in the 23rd Winter Olympics of Peyongchiang- and indeed the latter has been an open issue since December 2014.
At that time North Korea had refused only for organizational time reasons, without ever raising matters of principle – and this is by no means of secondary importance.
For obvious reasons of national dignity, North Korea has explicitly refused to share the participation and organization costs.
It is worth recalling, however, that, from the very beginning, North Korea had strongly supported only the candidacy of South Korea to host the 23rd Winter Olympics of 2018.
Hence the Winter Olympics will see the participation of the North Korean athletes Ryom-Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik, who had both qualified for the 2018 Olympics during the competitions held in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September 2017.
Later some problems arose in the relations between the North Korean Olympic Committee and the Lausanne’s International Olympic Committee, the highest body responsible for world sport.
However, it was the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, who personally announced the possibility of sending North Korea’s athletes to the 23rdWinter Olympics in South Korea – an explicit permission given on a special and highly symbolic occasion, namely the speech delivered by the Supreme Leader for the New Year.
The primary theme of the North Korean Supreme Leader is “national pride”, which counts very much for both countries – the most tragic relic of the old Cold War, a silly conflict that both Koreas want to overcome, albeit in a different way.
From this viewpoint I believe that Mao Zedong’s theory of the Cold War as a “paper tiger” holds true for both Koreas.
However, the way of overcoming it is often not too different.
Hence the meetings between the two Koreas to tackle the issue of North Korea’s participation in the 23rd Winter Olympicsare scheduled for January 9.
Both Koreas are fully aware – even in the smallest political, symbolic and ceremonial details – of what is really at stake in this negotiation, which is only apparently a sporting negotiation.
What is at stake is an agreement between the two Koreas before solving, once and for all with Japan, Russia, the United States and China, the issue of North Korea’s full return – with equal dignity -ontothe international scene and hence onto the world market.
If all goes well, in the coming years we can probably talk about a strategic and military sharing between South and North Korea – the establishment of a “nuclear and chemical-bacteriological potential” throughout the Korean peninsula, whose keys will also be held by Japan, Russia and probably the United States, if it does not make further mistakes.
As usual, the EU will have a wait-and-see attitude, believing to have a role to play in the negotiations while only practicing nursemaid diplomacy – thus ridiculously getting worked up for no purpose and pretending to have powers it has not – by probably providing “humanitarian aid” to the parties(aid possibly not even required by them).
We had already said so on other occasions in the past when no one was even barely thinking about that.
We had referred above all to the joint exercises between Russian and Chinese forces carried out last November in the Sea of Okhotsk.
For both China and Russia that sea is the optimal area to launch attacks on US bases in the Pacific.
The message was very clear: to quickly and strategically regionalize the North-South Korean issue; to strengthen Russia’s and China’s ties with both of them; to make the United States leave all hope regarding the disagreements between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping that can never be a useful wedge for the United States.
Hence a further message to the United States making it clear that any further increase in the US military presence in South Korea would not absolutely be accepted either by Russia or by the People’s Republic of China.
And not as protectors of North Korea, but as powers directly bordering on a nuclearized area.
We have already said so, but it is worth repeating it: China does not accept in any way a US military hegemony cancelling North Korea’s nuclear and conventional potential – the only possible rampart between China and South Korea, namely a US staunch ally.
But, in economic terms, also China’s ally.
The US military balance in the region is well known: 35,000 North American soldiers and officers in South Korea; 40,000 in Japan; nearly 4,000 in Guam, a small island 2,100 kilometers away from Pyongyang, with a surface of only 544 square kilometers.
Not to mention the five US bases in the Philippines, as well as the four US warships based in Singapore, in addition to the overflight and docking permits granted by Thailand to the North American forces.
It is also worth recalling the US significant strategic positioning in the Hawaiian islands, with further 400,000 soldiers, sailors and officers and as many as 200 military ships available, with over 1,000 thousand warplanes of various sizes and functions stationed in the atoll that saw the successful surprise attack by the Japanese Admiral Togo.
There is also the US naval base in Kadena, on the island of Okinawa, as well as some stealth bases, also located in the Japanese archipelago.
Hence, it should be honestly said to our US friends that the fact that North Korea feels to be strategically closed and severely threatened is not a paranoia of North Korea’s ruling class – it is an incontrovertible fact.
To do what? “To bring democracy” to North Korea? Most of the mistrust with which North Korea looks to US statements regards, in fact, the unpredictable, self-destructive and basically improper behavior the United States had with Saddam’s Iraq at first and with Gaddafi’s Libya later.
North Korea does not want “Korean” springs, characterized by forked tongues, leaving only rubble and splitting the old national units – well tried and tested by history – for a crazy project of continuous war.
Furthermore China did not even accept that the United States naively puts pressures on itso as to diminish the significance and scope of the North Korean nuclear missile program.
As happens in the whole Chinese and Eastern sapiental tradition, China certainly does not want to be “second” to the United States.
And, despite recent coldness, it does not even want to appear hostile or distant from North Korea, an ancient “brother country” that Xi Jinping’s leadership will never leave in Western hands.
Conversely – if and when the global equilibria allow it -China may want a rational balanced reduction of North Korea’s nuclear umbrella.
This is meant to reduce a real danger of unwanted or casual attack and to show benevolence – when needed – vis-à-vis South Korea and North America.
Hence the North Korean nuclear system is a bargaining chip that China will use at its poker table, but never against the old North Korean “comrades” that, indeed, could obtain good economic advantages from this balanced reduction of the nuclear missile and bacteriological-chemical potential, without particular reductions in the value of their threat south-eastwards.
China accounts and will account in the future for over 90% of North Korea’s trade with the other countries but – as excellent readers of Marx’s works -the Chinese never behave like “common materialists” in the analysis of international relations.
Ironically for ideologies, which have never died, currently only the big business liberals think in terms which were typical of the Communist vulgate.
Moreover there is a clear message coming from the latest joint Russian-Chinese sea operations.
The clear strategic message that we hope the United States will understand is that the first US attack parade will be almost entirely covered by the Russian-Chinese threat or reaction, which will probably oppose and cancel it before its reaching North Korean waters. Conversely, Russia and China will leave North Korea’s response on Guam free and, in all likelihood, on other US bases in the Pacific – a response which will be fully developed by North Korea alone.
Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State of Donald J. Trump, who has always been in favor of negotiations with North Korea, knows all too well to what extent it is important for the United States not to trigger an uncontrollable and useless chain reaction in Southeast Asia-a region that has never brought luck to the United States.
Why? To set fire – without any result for the United States, if not ashes – to the whole Central Asian region and get to war on the Russian-Chinese land borders?
May God protect them.
Later Russia and China will protect North Koreadiplomatically, at the level of international organizations, thus avoiding the worst of the new sanctions.
Or, even worse, the excessive reactions of some US late restless aides, of those who – as has already happened in the EU – want to repeat the Cold War at the new borders of the Russian Federation.
They emasculate themselves on their own, at least as far as the energy market is concerned and hence -almost without realizing it – they will find themselves recreating a very costly dependence only on the United States, which will certainly make no concessions or discounts for the EU powerless naivety.
Hence currently the real problem is how to get out of this second phase of Cold War – and the key is to be found once again in the Korean peninsula.
If all those who will be called upon to deal with North Korea heal the Cold War wound where it was created (in fact, the Berlin Wall came later), namely at the 38th parallel, many things will change and not only in Southeast Asia.
South Korea will never want to become a nuclear ossuary to cover the North Korean subsequent attacks on the US nuclear parade and its military positions and installations in the region.
Furthermore, Russia and China will never accept a US military operation before or after the Panmunjom line, which is still technically a “ceasefire”.
Nevertheless both Russia and China will quickly accept the proposal to reduce the relevance of the North Korean nuclear apparatus, if there are rational and verifiable exchanges.
However, in this new triangulation, even North Korea must reap its benefits, which could be ensured by a new treaty that should make North Korea enter the worldmarket without hesitations, dissimulations and pretenses and without post-factumpunishments. Why?
Obviously there should also be a treaty for mutual recognition between the United States and North Korea, in addition to the restoration of a long, but credible, sequence of joint actions between South and North Korea.
At the end of the diplomatic negotiation, the United States should be in a position to accept a North Korean share of total defense to be defined.
While, at the same time, North Korea shall agree on a wide secondary protection area for its own defense apparatus, namely a new Panmunjom line.
As already recently noted, this would mean strong gradual integration with the Russian and Chinese economies, just now that the great ride of the new Silk Road is beginning westwards.
However, I have recently become very optimistic about the whole North Korean issue.
It has happened when I learned that the negotiation, which will start with the symbolic and hence highly political Olympic issue, will be led for North Korea by Ri Su-Yol, also known as RiChol.
A high-profile institutional leader who enjoys Kim Jong-Un’s full trust – a diplomat with great culture and experience about Western and Eastern issues.
He speaks excellent French, but his professional experiences have led him to learn also the German language very well.
Obviously his English is perfect.
He served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from April 2014 until May 2016 – and this is the first aspect to consider.
Ri is a refined weaver and negotiator, as happened in the diplomatic tradition of the countries born from the continuity and break with Marxism, which was represented by the creation of the Third Leninist International.
He is a tireless man, without the inflexibility that characterized many Eastern diplomats, at least those I met when Italy still had a foreign policy – which is no longer the case.
A “revolution against Capital“, against the Third International just to use the title of an old and perhaps still famous article by Antonio Gramsci on the “New Order”.
In this respect, we note that by Capital we only mean the title of Karl Marx’s fundamental work, not one of the means of production that Marxism has always considered – with some exaggeration, but also with some good intuitions – a means of production very different from the others.
However, these are just digressions typical of an economist.
Ri was also Vice-President of the Committee for Investment and Joint Ventures, as well as Vice-President of the Communications Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
He also had another key post in the North Korean’s political system, which is based on “collaborative competition” among leaders, created especially in the institutions for training and selecting the North Korean ruling class – an “alternate” candidate of the Party’s Central Committee, a role never to be forgotten in a Third International system.
He also heldanother important post, namelyVice-Director of the Organization and Guidance Department, the control axis with which Kim Jong Un, but also his predecessors, spoke with the Party’s Leadership, thus controlling it.
In short, he is Kim Jong-Un’s real trusted man and this makes us realize how important the negotiations that will begin on January 9 are for North Korea’s leadership.
We can be certain that, from the beginning, the negotiations will get off track, albeit without exaggerating.
The issue lies above all in talking by symbols and signs – just as the Gods of the ancient Latins did, according to Lucretius, persymbolum et per aenigmate.
For several yearsYi Chol also served as Ambassador to Switzerland, the country in which also Kim Jong-Un studied.
It is also worth recalling that he was also the Supreme Leader’s official representative in the EU, as well as a prudent and very cautious administrator of Kim Jong Il’s personal assets and financial affairs.
Kim Jong-Un is Kim Jong-Il’s third son.
Ri Su-Yol, also known as Yi Chol, was born in 1940. Hence he is a man of experience, without the useless haste typical of young people.
Indeed, he does not look his age.
Therefore he had an elitist and revolutionary training, but he was never the expression of a family or group tradition existing before the Party, nor was he the son of a trusted official.
In fact he studied at the Revolutionary School of Mangyo’ndae and later at the Namsan School where he was Kim Jong-Il’s classmate.
Later Riwent to study at the Kim Il Sung University and probably finished his studies at the University of Moscow.
Soon after completing his studies, he started to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 1972 he was already Head of a Ministry Desk.
In 1974 he became Director General of the Office for Protocol and International Organizations.
After the Party’s Sixth Congress held in October 1980, Ri became one of the deputy-Directors of Kim Jong-Il’s Personal Secretary – a real key post.
At the same time, he took up the post of Vice-Director of the Party’s Organization and Guidance Department and, again in 1980, he was appointed Ambassador to Geneva.
It is therefore by no mere coincidence that Riwas sent to represent his country in the capital city of International Organizations which, as in the past, arethe favorite ground of confrontation or negotiation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In Switzerland he worked for the entire community of North Korean Party Leaders, in addition to taking care of the personal – and hence political -interest and affairs of both Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
Hence we can say that Ri has also become Kim Jong-Un’s trusted man, the essential advisor, the one who knows how to speak to the Westerners, to North Korea’s Friends and to the opponents.
Ri’s career continued in 1987, when he became Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mission in Geneva.
He was later recalled to his home country in March 2010 and appointed Ambassador to Iran, a place of absolute importance for those who know the particular relations existing between North Korea and Iran.
Upon returning to North Korea after his Iranian mission, Ribegan working in the Supreme Leader’s Personal Secretary’s Office.
Finally he led – with absolute correctness, propriety, wisdom and refined knowledge of Western laws and customs – the organization attracting capital into the North-Eastern region of the country.
Hence it is really easy to understand the emphasis laid by Kim Jong-Un on the new negotiations due to start on January 9, 2018.
It is worth recalling that in 2014 Ripaid, for the first time, an official visit to India, in his capacity as Foreign Minister. He was also elected as a full member of the Party’s Politburo by the 7thCentral Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea – another extremely important post for those who know the particular North Korean power elite.
It is also worth noting that the Party always prevails over the State in the political regimes resulting from the “revolution against Capital” that created the Third International.
Hence something different from traditional Marxism which – according to the so-called Austro-Marxism, much loved and studied by Giuseppe Saragat- would have resulted in socialdemocracy.
Ri is also Head of the Party’s International Relations Office and in 2017 he was appointed President of the Diplomatic Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Said Assembly is the only representative House since there is no Senate in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Hence what would I like to happen if these negotiations were successful – as I sincerely hope – also on the basis of the profile and caliber of the personality to whom North Korea has entrusted this diplomatic round of negotiations?
Firstly, the mutual recognition between North Korea and the United States of America.
Secondly, an agreement between China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States for the planned reduction of North Korea’s nuclear missile and bacteriological-chemical saturation.
A nuclear missile network that could be controlled by an ad hoc Agency with specific procedures, different and more up-to-date than those used by the IAEA.
Thirdly, an agreement on North Korea’s controlled opening to international capital, with the creation of a North Korean Commission for Foreign Exchange, with a view to avoiding speculative transactions such as those that characterized Russia after the CPSU’s fall.
Fourthly, a fully operational plan of targeted foreign investment for the autonomous economic zones and later for the whole North Korea.
Considering Ri Su-Yong’ skills, if all goes well, we could reach these results sooner than expected.
BRI: Shared Future for Humanity
The terrestrial and maritime connectivity proposed by the Chinese government back in 2013 with six connectivity corridors reflects the vision of shared future for humanity. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an omen of modern transformation of the globe. The journey of transition from geo-politics to geo-economics is itself a huge achievement. As geo-economics brought in the partnership and collaboration for mutual gains whereas geo-politics reflects competition, for instance, arm race.
BRI a network of terrestrial and maritime passages encompassing (1) the New Eurasian Land Bridge connects Western China to Western Russia; (2) the China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, from Northern China to Eastern Russia; (3)the China-Central Asia-Western Asia Corridor, links China to Turkey; (4) the Corridor from Southern China to the Indochinese peninsula up to Singapore; (5) the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; and (6) the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor. In other words BRI is one of the longest connectivity route from the Chinese coast to Singapore to Gwadar up to the Mediterranean. Among all the above mentioned projects, CPEC is a model project with so much in its credit.
CPEC is the flagship project of the Belt & Road Initiative. CPEC is a mutually agreed initiative including 4 key areas of cooperation i.e. energy projects, infrastructure development, Gwadar Port, and industrial cooperation. This cooperation has further strengthened the time tested friendship. China – Pakistan strategic cooperation is an essential ingredient for the South Asian peace recipe. CPEC, not merely focus on commerce and trade but also include social development projects as well. Pak-China Friendship Hospital, Pak-China School, Gwadar Airport, and many more are prominent examples of this initiative. The first phase of CPEC is almost complete and is all ready to enter into the second phase. The first phase was comprised of energy and road projects whereas the second phase might also entails agriculture, education, health, water and much more. Here in our case, when there is an atmosphere of non-kinetic threats, development is the only option. Internal harmony and peace can only be achieved when there is no sense of deprivation. In addition, inclusion of third party in CPEC project, and also connecting it with the Central Asian Republics and Russia is also a progressive move. Opening it for the private business sector and creating 80,000 jobs, all are signs of social uplifting and gradual development. CPEC is an inclusive project for Pakistan and for the region.
China is focusing on and playing a key role in connecting the continents. Being an emerging power, China, considers the role of regional connections vital for the global peace and prosperity. Hence, BRI is a positive-sum cooperation. It’s a platform for dialogue, and developing new paths of cooperation encompassing government to government, people to people, business to business and media to media relations. BRI is the, opening up and connectivity, with an aim on promoting global peace and cooperation, and building a global community with a bright future for mankind. Moreover, it promotes connectivity through passages of commerce and trade. There is also a shift in the international balance, leaning towards east from west, considering it a breath of fresh air. Belt and Road Initiative is turning the myth “21st Century is the Asian Century” into reality.
BRI is a network of exchange, exchange of happiness and prosperity, exchange of knowledge and technology, exchange of expertise to perform well for mutual interests. It is the beginning of the inclusive global future. Hence, it is the time for profound change and reforms. For growth, for being dynamic, change is normal. So, reforms, propel states to accomplish goals not only at national level but international level too. The way BRI brought countries and regions together, enhancing trade, developing state of the art infrastructure, boosting investment, strengthening cultural ties, and people to people exchanges, all making BRI, the Central Nervous System of the world.
The true essence of BRI is regional integration, a horizontal, non-vertical integration with no hegemonic designs with an aim to limit the world recession damage. Furthermore, as the second BRI forum is scheduled in late April this year, there is much more to come. As mentioned, BRI is a pie, having share for all; it’s not a debt trap. In order to win the confidence of all the partnering states, and to lessen the suspicion, China is trying to avoid the ‘debt traps’. Though, there is no such state in unsustainable Chinese government debt pressure. It basically provides equality based cooperation, and a green & sustainable development. Second BRI forum is the right time to kickstart the “Second Phase” of Belt & Road. Many foreign heads of state and government, and thousands of delegates will be attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, or BRF. As mentioned by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “it will include a series of events, such as leaders’ round table, high-level meeting, and thematic forum, CEO conference, under the theme of Belt and Road cooperation shaping a brighter shared future. There will also be more side events, including 12 thematic forums focusing on practical cooperation, and for the first time a conference organized specifically for the business community”.
The globe has already been struck by two major economic depressions. Asian continent also faced one in 1997 when East and Southeast Asia was crippled economically. The world direly needs a remedy in order to sustain the global economy which can only be done through economic and cultural interconnectivity.BRI aims to be a torch bearer in order to bring the financial benefits to the globe. The global prosperity is need of an hour in modern world order but this can be achieved through collective efforts.
China: Via Portugal into Africa and Latin America
Portugal is a major geographical link in the European leg of China’s New Silk Road project (NSR). A visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Lisbon on December 4-5, 2018 produced seventeen cooperation agreements thereby reaffirming the two parties’ readiness to expand economic partnership.
China is Portugal’s top trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade steadily on the rise amounting to $5.6 billion in 2017. The volume of Chinese investment in the Portuguese economy has reached $ 10.2 billion. Simultaneously, the influx of tourists from China to Portugal has gone up by 40% and from Portugal to China by 16%. The Chinese Embassy in Lisbon has described the current state of Sino-Portuguese relations as the best since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979.
The livening up of Sino-Portuguese relations is key to Beijing’s comprehensive strategy of boosting cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries. Adopted fifteen years ago, this strategy has brought about an increase in the volume of trade between the PRC and the Portuguese-speaking nations by more than 19 times – from $ 6 billion in 2002 to $ 117.6 billion in 2017.
In this context, an economic union with Lisbon is designed to geographically complete the European sector of the New Silk Road project (NSR) given the location of Portugal as the western tip of the European continent. Also, such an alliance is set to project Chinese economic influence through Portugal to countries of Africa and Latin America.
China is number one trading partner of three Portuguese-speaking countries: Brazil (trade turnover in 2018 at $ 29.5 billion), Angola ($ 26 billion) and Mozambique ($ 168 million).
The port of Sines – Portugal’s sea gate to the Atlantic and Africa – carries a particular importance with its well-developed infrastructure and all the facilities to be used as a transit point for Chinese products bound for America and Africa. Another important point is the Azores, a part of Portuguese territory stretching deep into the Atlantic. Lisbon has consented to Beijing’s participation in the construction of scientific and logistics infrastructure in the archipelago, which is tantamount to a stronger Chinese economic presence in the region.
Lisbon favors joint participation with Beijing in investment projects in Portuguese-speaking Africa. African countries have expressed a similar intention. In January 2019, the Angolan Parliament ruled to abolish double taxation with Portugal, China and the United Arab Emirates.
Lisbon-mediated cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries will enable Beijing to guarantee food security. According to UN reports, Angola is among the top five countries with the greatest agricultural potential (58 million hectares of arable land), Mozambique has 36 million hectares, of which less than six are cultivated, while Brazil is the main supplier of soybean, a popular food product for China (14 million tons in 2018).
In relation to China and within the NSR project, Portugal plays the role of an infrastructure and logistics counterweight to France, which is trying to shift the focus of French-Chinese cooperation in the direction of the Mediterranean and North Africa – to fight against terrorism in the Sahel region and provide investment support of the French-speaking Sahel “Five” (Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali).
Beijing is interested in moving via the Atlantic westward. From the geographical point of view, Portugal is a good partner here – cooperation with it takes China beyond the Mediterranean. According to the Chinese leader, for Beijing, Lisbon is a point of linking the land and sea segments of the NSR and a promising partner in the development of the “sea wave economy”.
The position of Paris regarding the NSR project is characterized as cautiously positive, envisaged by the Franco-German Aachen agreement of January 22, 2019 and affected by competition with Italy (Italian Trieste and French Marseille compete for the main port of the NSR in the Mediterranean).
The Aachen agreement diplomatically outlines the geopolitical axis Paris-Berlin, endowing the French-German relations with a special status. Against export-oriented German economy (in 2018, exports went up 3% against 2017, reaching $ 1.318 billion), Beijing’s economic activity in Europe is seen as a challenge.
Negotiations between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and China’s Xi Jinping on March 25-26 demonstrated the EU’s consolidated position and marked a successful attempt to secure common gains from building up cooperation between the EU (without Italy) and the PRC.
While France readily signed multibillion-dollar contracts with China and agreed to the opening of the Chinese market for French goods, it refrained from actively assisting the Chinese in pursuing transcontinental infrastructure projects as unwelcome for the economic health of the Franco-German duumvirate.
First published in our partner International Affairs
North Korea’s future international relations
Rumors are rife in world diplomacy circles that the United States wanted to force the hand in the recent talks with North Korea held in Hanoi last March.
The US side, in particular, tried to achieve a broader definition of “denuclearization”, a criterion capable of simultaneously eliminating the missile network, precisely the nuclear one, as well as the North Korean facilities for chemical warfare.
At the end of March, a report informed that the United States had asked North Korea to remove the whole stock of fissile material and relinquish all bacteriological warfare programmes.
All this only in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Too much, considering the level reached by the previous negotiations.
Obviously, the North Korean delegation was certainly not very close to US requests, while North Korea’s deputy-Foreign Minister, Choe Son Hui, argued with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton because they created a strong “obstacle” to negotiations.
North Korea’s representatives in the Hanoi negotiations, however, stopped the talks because they had not the qualifications nor the political mandate to treat the issue of denuclearization with the United States in this “global” way.
Nevertheless, John Bolton, who is certainly not a great supporter of dialogue between the United States and North Korea, seized the opportunity of the block of negotiations. In the lack of a precise North Korean policy line, he asked for an overall, quick and absolute denuclearization, being well aware that this request could not be accepted by the North Korean delegation.
Again following Bolton’s policy line, the United States added to this request- which was hardly likely to be accepted – the total destruction of chemical and bacteriological weapons.
It is strange that,in Hanoi, experienced and skillful mediators conducted so tough negotiations, even naïve in their harshness.
Furthermore, the United States asked North Korea for news about a “secret base for uranium enrichment” near the Yongbyon facilities.
Finally, the United States also asked for a “statement of all nuclear activities” in North Korea, as well as a clear roadmap for denuclearization.
As if the matter were only in North Korean hands.
A management of negotiations that may probably be fine for US internal political purposes, but certainly does not favour any positive evolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.
In his last meeting with President Trump, however, Kim Jong-Un brought to Hanoi the sole promise of fully scrapping, in a short period of time, the Yongbyon nuclear research centre.
The United States, however, did not well understand whether the Yongbyon facilities to be closed regarded only the reactor that has been producing plutonium since 1980 or whether the closure offered by Kim Jong-Un regarded the whole plant, with its many centrifuges for uranium and reactors.
Some US analysts think that the Yongbyon facilities are still at the core of the whole North Korean nuclear system, while other experts believe they are “obsolete” and, hence, Kim’s offer is not particularly interesting.
Nevertheless, if there is nothing else besides the “obsolete” facilities, Kim Jong Un’s offer is meaningful and rational.
At the beginning of Hanoi talks, North Korea hoped that economic sanctions would soon be partly lifted, considering that all the UN Security Council Resolutions on the North Korean issue stated that it would be possible to re-examine the sanctions in exchange for clear progress on the nuclear issue.
North Korea, however, has already imposed a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. It has also closed its nuclear test sites and has even started to destroy its missile test sites.
North Korea has even accepted a slow and progressive lifting of sanctions, in exchange for a step-by-step check of nuclear compliance.
From this viewpoint, the United States thought that sanctions really benefited it and hence they did not try to reduce them. Quite the reverse.
The United States must have thought that the more sanctions remain, the more North Korea is forced to negotiate.
Moreover, the Russian and Chinese proposals on the subject, developed within the UN Security Council, have always been blocked by the US contrary vote.
John Bolton’s and Mike Pompeo’s hard stance, however, was not matched by any immediate negative reactions from the North Korean side, as is customary in North Korea’s diplomacy. Nevertheless, three weeks after the crisis of Hanoi’s talks, the North Korean deputy-Foreign Minister, Choe Son-Hui, who enjoys Kim’s full confidence, said that his country “is not particularly interested in the current negotiations with the United States for denuclearization”.
Later, after the unexpected end of talks in Hanoi, the United States launched a defamation campaign against North Korea claiming, for example, that North Korea was secretly continuing its missile tests and that this new fact had stopped the US efforts at the negotiating table.
It is hard to understand how nuclear tests can be stopped “secretly”.
North Korea, however, has never promised to stop anything else but missile tests alone.
Hence, neither the uranium enrichment program nor the other biological and chemical activities have rightly ceased.
Currently, however, the door of negotiations still remains half-open.
Again in March, the pictures of the Sohae site, which is used for launching satellites, showed a significant pace of facilities’ reconstruction.
In all likelihood, despite Kim Jong Un’s promise to dismantle the site soon, North Korea still plans to keep and develop it, with a view to maintaining also some diplomatic pressure on the United States, but above all to organizing a new round of talks in the future.
The next important events will be the meeting between Donald J. Trump and the South Korean leader – already scheduled for April 11 – designed to break the ice between North and South Korea on the denuclearization issue and, on April 15, the North Korea’s great celebrations for the 107thbirth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, namely the “Day of the Sun”.
As some US analysts claim, should we go back to the strict and effective style of the old Six Party Talks?
Instead of a team that – at least in the US case – knows the complex issue of relations between the United States and North Korea only superficially, a new negotiation would be useful, with a traditional preliminary document and clear purposes.
A new negotiation that – as was the case with the Six Party Talks – makes the North Korean deputy-Foreign Minister and the deputy-Secretary of State, as well as many US experts of the academic and intelligence worlds sit around the negotiating table.
Certainly, we need to imagine that the negotiation is and will be long and complex.
Simple negotiations are those that do not succeed in reaching the goal.
Hence it will be useful to imagine multiple and different trade-off and mutual satisfaction factors, compared to a harsh and brutal negotiation on nuclear potential alone.
Kim Jong-Un knows all too well that what is at stake here is the future of his country, not only nuclear and bacteriological-chemical disarmament.
His nuclear and bacteriological-chemical network has led North Korea to be a member of the world decision-making system.
If this happens even in a shift from the nuclear threat to a major economic role, Kim Jong-Un will have won his bet.
If this does not happen, the United States shall not believe that North Korea will consume itself on its own. Quite the reverse.
In any case, it will be necessary to clarify that, as usual, the North Korean issue cannot be resolved with a mere bilateral negotiation mechanism.
The North Korean strategic role is a vital problem for Japan, for South Korea, but also for China and the Russian Federation.
Without a project that is good for all these actors, and not only for the United States, no peace nor disarmament will be possible. Not even for the United States alone.
China does not certainly want a nuclear, bacteriological and chemical system on its border that is, however, completely out of its control.
This is the real reason for the initial tensions between Kim Jong-Un and Xi Jinping.
Any increase in military tension in North Korea also spreads suspicions in China.
Nevertheless, it is a factor that the United States – in agreement with China – could use to reach North Korea’s denuclearization.
In particular, however, China wants neither a new war on the Korean peninsula – an interest obviously shared with South Korea – nor the US Armed Forces on its border, if North Korea’s complete nuclear demilitarization is achieved.
And if the United States and South Korea are still able to quickly reach the nuclear threshold in an initially conventional conflict with North Korea.
Hence, for China, high conventional and credible militarization for North Korea, but also with a non-negligible anti-US nuclear deterrent, albeit certainly not capable of setting fire to the whole Southeast Asia.
The same strategic paradigm largely applies to the Russian Federation.
It is not in favour of a demilitarized North Korea, which would be easy prey to the US-South Korea axis, and would not serve as a military buffer for Russia. However, it is even against a North Korea capable of threatening South Korea, and hence even the countries on its Northern border.
Therefore, considering the scenario of the negotiations between North Korea and the United States, the current stalemate will serve – after the Hanoi talks – to select the rational requests of the two actors and to shape the possible responses.
For example, the spreading of nuclear technology from North Korea to other States is a new topic to be included in the negotiation agenda.
As well as the decrease in conventional North Korean forces, to be linked to a rational decrease in the US and South Korean Armed Forces.
The five sanctions that North Korea wants to be lifted concern only the civilian economy and the well-being of the North Korean people, while we need to note that also Kim Jong-Un is put under pressure by the North Korean people and, even more, by his ruling class.
The North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, said so explicitly: in fact, he has clarified that the North Korean power is aimed – in a rational negotiation – “at the complete dismantling of the Yongbyon site”.
Ri Yong Ho also added that the dismantling of Yongbyon facilities would take place “with the presence of US experts”.
Clearly Kim Jong Un has now China’s full protection.
Certainly China does not want to have the huge mass of migrants from North Korea within its borders and, above all, is not interested in a “sister” country which, besides threatening the United States and South Korea, forces even the great China to follow its policy.
This could lead the North Korean leadership to seek economic compensation at any time of the denuclearization talks.
Hence will the US leadership be able to finalise negotiations with North Korea without too many mistakes and wrong moves?
Will the US leadership be capable of actively involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea in a radical dismantling of the North Korean nuclear capacity?
We do not know it yet.
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