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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Diplomacy: Still Nowhere or Worse?

by | July 16th, 2013 | 07:00 am

We are still digging out from vacation, but in the name of completeness thought we should post up the outcome of the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum held on July 2; Yonhap has excellent coverage of the diplomatic to-and-fro.  Secretary Kerry’s comments on the ARF (the Korea section is posted below) were still firmly wedded to strategic patience but struck a few softer notes.  According to Kerry, the US has the “single intent” of peace, security and stability with regard to North Korea. He also set out some prospective carrots: “North Korea should not miss yet another opportunity to obtain peaceful relations and the cooperation of the United States and international community in assisting its economic development.”

The Chairman’s Statement (.pdf here) contained a slightly more strongly-worded statement on the Korean peninsula than last year. Last year’s statement also made reference to UN Security Council Resolutions—implying both North Korean compliance and obligations of the ARF members to uphold sanctions—as well as a commitment to the September 2005 Joint Statement. However, this year the chairman’s statement explicitly mentioned both denuclearization and humanitarian concerns; full text below.

The North Koreans were isolated at the ARF and basically reiterated existing policy, and with a particularly tin ear. For example, DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun’s statement led with oblique reference to the byungjin line of building the economy while also bolstering national defense, which in the context of current doctrine means maintaining its nuclear deterrent. The US is clearly not interested in holding talks without preconditions, but the North has consistently claimed that it is willing to hold talks without preconditions. A careful reading of the speech suggests this is not true: among the preconditions—at least for serious denuclearization talks—are disbanding the UN Command (see our post on that here), the US reversing its hostile policy, the lifting of multilateral sanctions and the negotiation—or presumably an agreement to negotiate—a peace regime.  No preconditions indeed.

Finally, in the credit-where-credit-is-due department, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt has a pretty depressing but useful post at 38North on Chinese policy toward the peninsula entitled “Backtracking from Sunnylands?”  The title says it all, but there are a lot of details on how China’s much-vaunted policy shift on North Korea is less than meets the eye, more tactics than strategy. Of particular interest given our economic preoccupations are claims that the Foreign Trade Bank sanctions were probably minimal, as North Koreans  had found other channels, and that cooperation with respect to Hwanggumpyong Island has resumed. China is concerned about further provocations that would strengthen US alliance relations, and ballistic missile defense capabilities in particular. But these concerns are very different than the sustained diplomatic pressure that would be required to get the Six Party Talks relaunched. The US has been clear that steps that talks will not resume without some prior action by Pyongyang.

From “Secretary Kerry’s Participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting” (full text here)

Secretary Kerry also discussed North Korea and made clear that, over the last year, North Korea has engaged in a series of provocations that undermined regional stability and the global nonproliferation regime. He underscored that it is wrong for North Korea to claim its actions are a response to the United States. The United States has a single intent with regard to North Korea – peace, security and stability, which is the shared position of our Six-Party partners.

Secretary Kerry remarked that if North Korea takes steps to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose, the U.S. is ready to engage in credible negotiations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. The United States remains united with our international partners in calling on North Korea to live up to its commitments under the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council resolutions to abandon its nuclear program and its nuclear weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

North Korea and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, if unchecked, could provoke a destabilizing global arms race. They should understand that no country’s security is made better through the effort to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea should not miss yet another opportunity to obtain peaceful relations and the cooperation of the United States and international community in assisting its economic development.

The United States remains deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people, and we urge North Korea to cooperate with the UN Commission of Inquiry, including by granting access to the country to evaluate human rights conditions on the ground.

From Chairman’s Statement of the Twentieth ASEAN Regional Forum, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, 2 July 2013

  1. The Ministers underlined the importance of peace, security and stability in the Korean Peninsula. Most Ministers encouraged the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations to all relevant UNSC Resolutions and to its commitments under the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. To this end, Ministers reiterated their support for all efforts to bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. Most Ministers reaffirmed their commitments to fully implement all the relevant UNSC Resolutions. The Ministers also emphasized the importance of addressing the issues of humanitarian concerns of the international community. The Ministers further encouraged exploring all possibility of engaging in a peaceful dialogue which would lead to the creation of an atmosphere of trust and confidence among the concerned parties.


DPRK Foreign Minister Speaks at Ministerial Meeting of Asian Regional Forum
Pyongyang, July 3 (KCNA) — DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun, head of the DPRK delegation, made a speech at the ministerial meeting of the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum held in Darussalam of Brunei on Tuesday.He referred to the fact that the DPRK has further reenergized the country’s overall economy and achieved successes in the improvement of the people’s standard of living by stepping up the building of a thriving nation under the wise leadership of the dear respected Kim Jong Un.

He reiterated the DPRK’s will to bolster up its capabilities for national defence and, at the same time, exert efforts for developing the economy and improving people’s standard of living for the purpose of making sustained efforts for peaceful development.

Referring to the repeated vicious cycle of confrontation and escalated tensions and the touch-and-go situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula due to the U.S., he said:

The U.S. aims to disarm the DPRK and bring down its social system by employing all means and methods.

It also seeks to further reinforce its military deployment to contain other countries by massively introducing latest war equipment into the Asia-Pacific region under the pretext of the “threat” from the DPRK.

The U.S. is still trumpeting about “provocation” and “threat” from the DPRK, which reminds one of a guilty party filing the suit first. All facts go to prove that the real provocateur and main culprit of acute tensions is none other than the U.S.

Such unceasing vicious cycle of acute tensions on the peninsula is attributable to the deeply-rooted hostile policy of the U.S. toward the DPRK.

The U.S. has not recognized the sovereignty of the DPRK but pursued all sorts of sanctions, pressure and military provocation against it for more than half a century since it designated the DPRK as enemy from the very day of its founding for the mere reason that it has differing ideology and social system.

It is impossible to settle the nuclear issue on the peninsula and any other matters and the vicious cycle of tensions will persist nonstop unless the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy toward the DPRK and defuses its nuclear threat to the DPRK.

The U.S. drop of its hostile policy should start from the conclusion of a peace treaty between the U.S. and the DPRK on the basis of the respect for the latter’s sovereignty and halt to all sanctions and military provocations against it.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

We once again call for an immediate dismantlement of the “UN Command” which has existed so far by abusing the name of the UN as a leftover of the Korean War.

Consistent is our stand to put an end to the tensions on the peninsula through dialogue and negotiations and to contribute to the regional peace and security.

Recently the DPRK proposed high-level talks between the authorities of the DPRK and the U.S. to have sincere discussions on wide-ranging issues including defusing military tensions on the peninsula, replacing the Armistice Agreement by a peace mechanism and “building a world without nuclear weapons” touted by the U.S.

Now that the international community is expressing serious concern over the tense situation on the peninsula, if the U.S. truly wants detente, it should respond to the bold decision and goodwill of the DPRK without any precondition.

Proceeding from its invariable stand for independent reunification of the country and peace and prosperity of the nation, the DPRK will make responsible and patient efforts to implement the June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration.

The DPRK foreign minister expressed belief that the member states of the forum would extend support and solidarity to the sincere efforts of the DPRK to end the vicious cycle of tensions and achieve durable peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The DPRK government will as ever make every effort to boost the friendly and cooperative relations with the regional countries, guided by the idea of its foreign policy — independence, peace and friendship — and protect peace and security in the region including the peninsula, he stressed.