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The Decline And Fall Of North Korea

Prague, Czech Republic (UPI) Jan 04, 2006
In my teens, I would watch TV in amazement as Red Adair would coordinate the extinguishing of massive fires in countries the United States government wanted nothing to do with. I remember Armand Hammer's trips to the Soviet Union, when they were strictly forbidden. I can still see George Soros predicting the fall of Communism, and people snickering at his prediction.

These men, two of whom have passed, all came from modest backgrounds. Despite great odds, they lived the American Dream -- becoming fabulously wealthy and powerful. Each established himself as a great philanthropist, giving generously to causes others had yet to consider.

Mostly, though, it was my sense of their being free spirits, of being in places others refused to go, of thinking well beyond the pale, which captured my imagination. When others refused, they believed. When others were constricted by shortsightedness, they engaged. They dreamed. They were often plausible deniability for governments who needed situations fine-tuned.

Separately, they played roles in Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, (which engaged the German Democratic Republic when many viewed this step with disdain) and Richard Nixon's opening to China (much to the hackles of some of the Republican establishment).

It is in this spirit, that the Prague Society and Global Panel have spent the past four years conducting a series of meetings and processes with business and government in eight countries (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Slovakia and the United Kingdom).

These processes have sometimes been harmonious, but they have often been contentious and acrimonious. They have brought together parties who would not normally be seen in the same room, let alone at the same table. There has been brainstorming and strategy sessions with academics and political, economic and security experts.

These meetings and strategies have been designed to develop a strategy for the Korean peninsula -- a strategy which builds heavily on our experiences from the heights of the Cold War in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Existing Situation:

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) is ruled by a regime with a defensive mode of thinking, volatile and unpredictable -- a regime with ambitions of becoming a nuclear power.

There are two aspects to the nuclear-issue -- weapons and domestic energy. The global community is generally focused on the nuclear threat and human rights issues.

The population of North Korea is unlikely to rebel because of decades-long repression -- isolation means there is no understanding of a free society. The leaders and ordinary population perceive outside influence as a threat- a village mentality.

The Northern half of the Korean peninsula is an area with considerable natural resources. Economic Development is not the current focus of strategies dealing with North Korea.

Starting Points for a Global Panel led strategy:

Many experts consider talk about an "axis of evil" to be counter-productive.

"Face" is an important element of both the Western and North Korean standpoint. Western governments have a firm stand on the conditions for aid to be given and are determined that North Korea will not be allowed to play games in the course of negotiations. Governments not involved in the Six Party Talks generally back this principle, or wish to be seen as doing so.

For North Korea, "national face-saving" is crucial - best understood by the Republic of Korea, China and Japan.

North Korea is not devoid of all contact with the South Korea. There are several joint development projects including Gaesung industrial complex, road connection projects, family union policies and tourism.

For historical reasons certain countries have more credibility in North Korea than others. These include Russia, China and the United Kingdom, and the 4 countries of the neutral Supervisory Commission in the 1953 armistice agreement - Czecho (slovakia), Poland, Switzerland and Sweden (although Sweden puts heavy emphasis on the human rights issue). From a geographic and political perspective there is a role for Australia and New Zealand in this process.

Potential scenarios:

It is unlikely that the North Korean political system will change in the foreseeable future, even with new leadership.

If unification of the Korean peninsula came tomorrow, it would be impossible for South Korea to integrate North Korea into its economy and political structures.

Principles of a Global Panel led strategy for North Korea:

1) A long-term strategy of engagement (noted examples: Nixon's China strategy and Brandt's Ostpolitik)

2) Practicality and transparency

3) To promote gradual reform and openness

4) To work within existing structures and relationships

5) To identify specific cultural, construction, commercial, agricultural and environmental projects

6) To assure coordination between individual projects

7) To ensure North Koreas commitment to a Global Panel led process.

In short, it is the strategy of small steps. It is a strategy which calls for opening North Korea according to an incremental timetable and focuses on establishing trust by carrying out small-scale practical projects. It is bold in its simplicity.

Source: United Press International

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