North Korea should be brought in from isolation and be economically rehabilitated into North East Asia, it has been suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum, currently being held in Vladivostok. At the plenary session, the leaders of Russia, Japan, Mongolia, and South Korea discussed in an open forum the issues facing North East Asia. When it came to the situation involving North Korea’s nuclear program, Vladimir Putin called for a peaceful solution to raising tensions, and for North Korea to be involved in common economic cooperation. The leaders of Japan and South Korea put more emphasis on forceful measures against North Korea.
“There is some merit for this concept”, comments Chris Devonshire-Ellis, who served as Vice Chair of Business Development at the United Nations Greater Tumen Initiative at a time when North Korea was a member. “I personally believe that sanctions do not work, have not worked, and are making matters worse. It would be far more preferable for the DPRK to be gradually weaned off their isolationism, and be shown that the road to progress and peace is in fact via mutual trade. It is a policy that has been working very well in Central Asia, and should be returned to in the North East”
China is also known to be leaning towards a peaceful solution to the North Korea problem, and would also be prepared to economically assist the country to develop trade flows and manufacturing capabilities. “North Korea is actually the wealthier of the two Koreas in terms of physical resources, such as mineral deposits and other natural assets”, says Devonshire-Ellis.
The North Korea nuclear problem essentially began right at the very beginning of the George W. Bush Presidency in 2001. Just before that, in the last days of the Bill Clinton administration, the United States had sent their Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to Pyongyang to pave the way for a potential Presidential visit, and the normalizing of diplomatic ties and aid. However, the first thing the incoming President George W. Bush did was to declare Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “an axis of evil”. That prompted Pyongyang, especially, to seek to protect itself, and led directly to the nuclear state we have today.
As President Putin pointed out recently, the U.S. attitude towards leaders in Irag and Syria has not been helpful in demonstrating to leaders of other nations that they are safe. “Saddam Hussein was hanged, his sons killed, and his grandson shot.” Colonel Gaddafi also met a somewhat violent end, while the US tradition at the time – stopped by President Obama – of displaying the dead corpses of American enemies in publicly released images was almost certainly unwise, and at worse, bordering on being barbaric. Such images and the treatment of national leaders by American forces will have been seen by the North Korean leadership. The current phase of firing missiles is their way of saying “back off” to the United States.
It remains to be seen how the North Korea issue will play out. The words of Winston Churchill should perhaps be remembered among the current US-DPRK bellicosity: “Jaw jaw is better than war war”. The inhabitants of Seoul and beyond will almost certainly agree, and when Moscow and Beijing are on the same page as concerns the DPRK, it behoves Washington to listen. Getting Kim Jong-Un back onside would make Donald Trump a legendary U.S. President.
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The Greater Tumen Initiative is an intergovernmental cooperation mechanism in Northeast Asia, supported by the United Nations Development Program, with a membership of five countries: People’s Republic of China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Russian Federation.