Thursday, 25th March, 2021
Moderator: Humphrey Hawksley - Author, commentator and broadcaster. He was a long standing BBC Foreign Correspondent.
Jenny Town: Senior Fellow at the Stimson Center and the Director of Stimson’s 38 North Program with expertise in North Korea, US-DPRK relations, US-ROK alliance and Northeast Asia regional security.
Presenting an overview of the roller coaster of US - DPRK relations in recent years, Jenny Town identified the US-DPRK summits as the highpoints of diplomatic engagement and the ICBM missile tests, nuclear warhead tests and name calling the confrontational, low points.
After the failure of Hanoi Summit to emerge with a deal, from the DPRK’s perspective the door to negotiations is unlocked but the onus is on the US to open the door. That door should not remain untried given that the DPRK is increasing it's nuclear sophistication, and the quality of it's conventional weapons. The US has to come up with some initial actions like lifting the travel ban for US citizens or removing obstacles for NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance. The status quo is not a viable option.
Keith Bennett: Consultant specialising in Korean and Chinese affairs with a long term, close relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Keith Bennett highlighted the lack of assurance, from the DPRK perspective, in any agreement made given the changes of policy that have followed elections in the US and ROK. He perceives that a US - DPRK Summit meeting is believed to be a favour bestowed by US President unilaterally in Washington but emphasised that it is not seen that way in Pyongyang.
"Current prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough do not seem very positive," Keith Bennett concludes, adding, "It is therefore something for civil society to ponder over and think what can be done. The extensive and imaginative programme currently being rolled out around the world by our friends, the UPF, will hopefully have a positive impact in this regard."
Aidan Foster-Carter: is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University in England.
Aidan Foster-Carter said that having watched Korean peninsula for a long time, he was very pessimistic about the prospects for peace. He emphasised that we are repeating ourselves making it to the first base and never taking the step to the second. New US and ROK administrations had reversed the policy of their predecesors to the detriment of building trust. Aidan Foster-Carter also believes that the DPRK has not made enough effort for peace. They have rebuffed President Mun, Jae in's overtures. "No South Korean President has done more for the North and none will again, you can be sure of that." He believes, 'North Korea chose it's outsider status long ago'.
Mike Chinoy: Non-Resident Senior Fellow, US-China Institute, University of Southern California and former CNN Senior Asia Correspondent and author of several books including the recently US released, “Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement.” Humphrey Hawksley mentioned that his previous blockbuster books on the DPRK had earned him invitations to Pyongyang and the White House.
Asked by Humphrey Hawksley to consider the human rights perspective in relation to the DPRK, Mike Chinoy was very clear that there would be no benefit to the people of North Korea to focus on human rights issues. There is no diplomatic process between the US and DPRK at the moment, so adding human rights to the agenda will not be fruitful. He suggested that an entry point for a discussion on human rights in the DPRK could be in the areas to which the DPRK is a signatory nation. The Rights of the Disabled, the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the International Convention on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There would be a hope that later the conversation could be broadened when there was greater trust between the two nations.
Commenting on the US - DPRK relationship, Mike Chinoy said one critical point was being missed. Since 2017 the DPRK has maintained its self-imposed moratorium on ICBM testing and nuclear testing. That was a big concession for Kim Jong Un for which from the DPRK viewpoint there was no comparable concession on the US side. They are looking for a big gesture from the US side. For example, the reiteration of the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo statement of ‘the American goal of achieving a fundamentally different strategic relationship between our two countries.’ Mike Chinoy fears that if North Korea concludes that this is not possible we may see another round of provocations as the DPRK allows itself to do all the things it has held back from since 2017.
Closing Remarks: Dr Katsumi Otsuka: Universal Peace Federation Europe and the Middle East, Chairman.
This year (2021) marks the 30th anniversary of their dramatic visit to Pyongyang and the meeting with President Kim, Il Sung whose regime had attempted to kill Dr. Moon in the prison camp (in the late 1940's).
'The step for reunification by physical force is over and should not happen again. The step for the unification by competition, I can say, has finished by the winning of South Korea, but the way to the reunification is still far away. Now is the time, therefore, to pursue the unification by the third way with a new idea. That is the proposal of the 'Head Wing' by Dr. Moon. The Head Wing vision is not the idea to destroy opponent but the thought to embrace even enemy creating new identity and mutual respect.
Confucian values of respectful relationships is common to democratic and non-democratic nations in this North East Asian region. Dr Moon sent his envoy’s to North Korea advising them to give respect to all they met. ‘You must give your adversary the respect and dignity you, in your bias, may not think that they deserve! In the long term it is worth it! You can change your adversary into a partner.’ Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr advised his followers ‘We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity.’
When asked by Humphrey Hawksley if UPF saw itself as the centre of the process of making peace on the Korean peninsula, Dr Otsuka agreed that UPF wants to support the efforts to peace. "We want to be the glue that holds the two nations together" he stated, adding, "Just as the (co-founders of Universal Peace Federation), Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Mrs Hak Ja Han Moon, risked their lives to visit North Korea 30 years ago now Mrs Moon wishes to visit North Korea once again to be that glue for both countries."
Mount Kumkang, one of the most famous scenic areas of the Korean peninsula, in recent years has become a symbol of the on - off cooperation between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.
We would like to consider what confidence building measures could initiate a transition to peace at a time of sanctions and the suspicion that any resources gained by the DPRK will be used to support the DPRK military, nuclear weapons and their delivery systems?
'Who can guide the process' is pertinent given that the shifts of democratic mandate may lead to a President of the United States or a President of South Korea, for example, who may withdraw from any prior agreements made by a previous administration. Who can guide any peace initiative into a longstanding agreement in which all parties can have assurance?
Moderator: Humphrey Hawksley is an author, commentator and broadcaster. His recent book 'Asian Waters' examined the points of conflict in North East Asia as well as the South China Sea. He has reported on key trends, events and conflicts from all over the world. His work as a BBC foreign correspondent has taken him to crises on every continent. He was expelled from Sri Lanka, opened the BBC’s television bureau in China, arrested in Serbia and initiated a global campaign against enslaved children in the chocolate industry.
• Mike Chinoy was CNN's Senior Asia Correspondent and served as a foreign correspondent for more than thirty years. After joining CNN at its London bureau in 1983, Chinoy served as Beijing Bureau Chief from 1987 to 1995. During that time he covered the 1989 events at Tiananmen Square, earning the CableACE, duPont and Peabody awards. He was also Hong Kong Bureau Chief for five years. His other awards include the Silver Medal from the New York Film Festival and Asian Television Awards for his reporting in Indonesia and Taiwan. Chinoy's published two books, China Live: People Power and the Television Revolution (1999) and Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (2008). He taught at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and ran the School's Hong Kong summer program 2007-2009. From 2006-2009 he was Edgerton Senior Fellow at the Pacific Council for International Policy.
• Keith Bennett is a consultant specialising in Korean and Chinese affairs. He has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), first visiting the country in 1983. He was the Secretary General of the International Kim Il Sung Foundation (IKF), from its inauguration in Pyongyang, and now serves as Deputy Chairman of its successor organisation, the Kim Il Sung Kim Jong Il Foundation (KKF). Mr. Bennett was awarded the Friendship Order of the DPRK by President Kim Il Sung on two occasions. He served for some ten years as the Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for DPRK in the UK Parliament. Among the initiatives that Mr. Bennett facilitated in this capacity was arranging the DPRK visit of Lord (General Sir Charles) Guthrie, former Chief of Staff of the British Army, for discussions with the DPRK military; as well as two visits to the UK by Mr. Choe Tae Bok, then Speaker of the DPRK parliament. Mr. Bennett is also the Deputy Chairman of the 48 Group Club. The 48 Group was established in 1954 to promote trade and positive relations with China after its founding members led the very first trade mission from any western country to the then newly formed People’s Republic the previous year. Consequently, in China, the Group is still highly respected as the “Icebreakers”, including by the country’s most senior leaders.
Jenny Town is a Senior Fellow at the Stimson Center and the Director of Stimson’s 38 North Program. Her expertise is in North Korea, US-DPRK relations, US-ROK alliance and Northeast Asia regional security. She was named one of Worth Magazine’s “Groundbreakers 2020: 50 Women Changing the World” and one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2019 for her role in co-founding and managing the 38 North website, which provides policy and technical analysis on North Korea.
Ms. Town is also an expert reviewer for Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Index, where she previously worked on the Human Rights in North Korea Project; an Associate Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a Member of the National Committee on North Korea, and an Associate Member of the Council of Korean Americans. She serves on the Editorial Board for Inkstick, an online foreign policy journal for emerging scholars.
• Aidan Foster-Carter is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University in England. He has followed Korean affairs for half a century, starting in 1968 as a juvenile fan of Kim Il-sung. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he taught sociology at the Universities of Hull, Dar es Salaam and Leeds from 1971 to 1997. An early broad interest in how nations develop, or fail to, grew into a specific fascination with modern Korea. Since 1997 he has been a full-time Korea analyst and consultant: writing, lecturing and broadcasting for academic, business and policy audiences in the UK and worldwide. He has covered both Koreas for Oxford Analytica since the 1980s, and for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) from 1983 to 2017. He also writes regularly for NKNews, 38North, The Diplomat and others. On inter-Korean relations, since 2000 he has written thrice-yearly surveys for Comparative Connections (Pacific Forum). During 1993-97 he authored a monthly North Korea Report for business, published in Seoul; and from 2000 to 2005 a regular 'Pyongyang Watch' column for Asia Times Online. His books include Korea's Coming Reunification (1992) and North Korea after Kim Il-sung (1994; both EIU). He has contributed two chapters each to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)’s North Korea Strategic Dossier (2011) and annual Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment (2016, 2019), and was an invited speaker at their 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. With his wife Dr Kate Hext, he also co-authored a book chapter on the arts as a site and mode of interaction between the DPRK and the wider world. Since 1982 he has made 29 visits to the Korean peninsula, including two to North Korea. His ambitions are to read more sijo, travel by train from Busan to Paris, and live long enough to see Korea peacefully reunified.
• Dr Katsumi Otsuka: Universal Peace Federation Europe and the Middle East, Chairman.
A citizen of Japan, as president of the student movement World-CARP Japan, he organized world conventions of students and youth from Japan, Korea, Russia and China in the 1980s and 1990s, served as president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Japan, as president of the Corporation for Building the Japan-Korea Tunnel, and as the leader of numerous organizations focusing on the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.