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5 Jun, 2009 13:41

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 5

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 5

This Friday ROAR presents Mikhail Gorbachev’s view of the North Korea problem.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA publishes an article by the former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who writes that the news about the latest North Korean nuclear test reached him at the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula, where the former Soviet leader was participating in the opening ceremony of the newly-installed Bell of Peace on the 38th Parallel – the line of the truce between the two Koreas established in order to stop the Korean war at the beginning of the 1950s.

The former President writes that he saw concern in the faces of the South Korean participants of the ceremony, and that the conversations that followed the announcement showed that the concern was not limited to the security of their own country, South Korea, but had spread to the situation in the North as well. Gorbachev writes that the South Koreans were showing deep sympathy towards their Northern brethren and their hard life, and expressing hope that, in the future, the two halves of Korea will unite.

There was no panic, says Gorbachev, but there was deep concern about the future.

The former President says that in 2007–08, the tendencies in inter-Korean relations and in North Korea’s interaction with the outer world were totally different. What caused the 180-degree turn, he asks?

Gorbachev says diplomats and experts give a whole range of explanations for this fact: some say that the North Korean leadership is acting irrationally, while others see in the latest tough steps an attempt to force the world community to increase humanitarian aid to help the most desperate groups of the country’s population, and help improve the overall economic situation. Some say that the power struggle in the upper echelons of power in North Korea dictates such behavior, and yet another group of experts suggests that the turn-around is the result of the latest tough policies by the new South Korean president, which therefore prove counterproductive.

All the above needs a thorough thinking over. But, says the former President, the point of such analysis has to remain clear in the minds of the analysts: thinking should be done first of all in order to find ways to resume political and diplomatic dialogue, and as an important part of it – of the six-party negotiations. Gorbachev says that it would be a mistake to start looking for military solutions of the problem. However, he continues, calls to that effect are already being heard from various involved parties.

Gorbachev says that the latest initiatives by Japanese right-wingers and those who favor the re-militarization of Japan – supported by some high officials of the U.S, who enjoy the idea of the creation a ‘potential for preventive strikes at enemy bases’ – are extremely dangerous and may lead straight to the cancellation of the main after-war taboo of Japanese politics, the rejection of nuclear weapons.

Such ideas, says Gorbachev, can only make tensions worse, and push the North Korean leadership to new irresponsible actions. These ideas are also capable of ruining the unity of opinion in the world community and the unanimity of its reaction to whatever next steps the government of North Korea may decide upon.

The former President says that he is greatly pleased by the fact that, this time, the U.S., China, Russia and Europe have formed a joint position without doubts and hesitation. He says that as the UN Security Council is preparing its new resolution on the matter, it is important to define which measures should be taken, because on the one hand it is necessary to leave no doubt for the North Koreans that their actions will have consequences. On the other hand, a mere strengthening of economic sanctions, or even making them severe, will only make the starving people of North Korea hostages of the nuclear program. Besides, the aftermath of an economic and political collapse of a nuclear state may become catastrophic.

A lot will depend on the country-participants of the six-party talks, especially on China, which still wields significant influence on North Korea. China is in a position to attempt to explain to the leaders of the North that the ‘external threat’ which has been made into a pretext for nuclear tests, is non-existent, and that the UN Security Council cannot be considered as an ‘enemy’ because China, Russia and Europe, known for their multiple efforts aimed at leading North Korea out of the dead-end road, are members of that body.

The former Soviet President says that, even with the latest negative news coming from North Korea (the refusal to continue honoring the truce agreement that ended the Korean War), using the Cold War method of ‘adequate’ or ‘analogous’ response will only put the issue on the verge of slip-sliding into a deeper crisis with unpredictable consequences.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT