By Fidel V. Ramos
Former Philippine President
(Last of Two Parts)
“The world is at the very edge of nuclear war. One accident is enough to unleash apocalypse that’ll end humankind…..”
– Pope Francis
(Reuters, 17 January 2018)
Our column last Sunday titled “Tense World Awaits Panmunjom Diplomacy (First of Two Parts)” (Manila Bulletin, 14 January 2018) was “right on the button” due to the follow-up story the next day, datelined Honolulu, which the Associated Press (15 January) reported:
“A false alarm that warned of a ballistic missile headed for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic Saturday, with people abandoning cars in a highway and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cellphone alert was a mistake.
SOMEONE HIT THE WRONG BUTTON
“HAWAII OFFICIALS HEADED BY GOVERNOR DAVID IGE (D) APOLOGIZED REPEATEDLY, AND SAID THE ALERT WAS SENT WHEN SOMEONE HIT THE WRONG BUTTON DURING A SHIFT CHANGE. THEY VOWED TO ENSURE IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. ‘WE MADE A MISTAKE,’ SAID HAWAII EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY ADMINISTRATOR VERN MIYAGI.
“For nearly 40 minutes, it seemed like the world was about to blow up in Hawaii, an island paradise already jittery over the threat of nuclear-tipped missiles from North Korea.
“The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones statewide just before 8:10 a.m., said: ‘BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL…..’
“The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted there was no threat about 10 minutes after the initial alert, but that didn’t reach people who aren’t on the social media platform. A revised alert informing of the ‘false alarm’ didn’t reach cellphones until about 40 minutes later…..
“Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said the system Hawaii residents have been told to rely on failed miserably. He also took emergency management officials to task for taking 30 minutes to issue a correction, prolonging panic, Saiki lamented.” (Manila Bulletin, 15 January 2017).
(NOTE: THE DESTRUCTION, KILLINGS AND EVENTUAL OCCUPATION OF OUR HOMELAND BY JAPANESE IMPERIAL FORCES FOLLOWED JUST A FEW HOURS AFTER ITS NAVY’S “SNEAK ATTACK” ON PEARL HARBOR, EARLY SUNDAY MORNING, 7 DECEMBER 1941, BY “TORA-TORA” CARRIER-BORNE ATTACK PLANES. UNFORTUNATELY, THE PHILIPPINES AND THE U.S. IN HAWAII WERE BOTH ILL PREPARED – MUCH LESS EQUIPPED, TO WARN THE PUBLIC OF EMERGENCIES OF THIS NATURE.)
WINTER OLYMPICS WARM INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS
IN THE ARTICLE TITLED “SOUTH KOREA, NORTH KOREA: OLYMPIC TALKS CLEAR LOW HURDLES” (THE PHILIPPINE STAR, 13 JANUARY 2018), THE U.S.-BASED THINK-TANK STRAT FOR WORLDVIEW OPINES: “THE APPROACHING WINTER OLYMPICS IN SOUTH KOREA HAVE PRESENTED NORTH KOREA WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE QUICK PROGRESS WITH ITS NEIGHBOR AT A CRITICAL MOMENT IN PYONGYANG’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM. REPRESENTATIVES OF THE TWO COUNTRIES ON THE DIVIDED PENINSULA MET AT PANMUNJOM LAST 09 JANUARY 2018 FOR THEIR FIRST FACE-TO-FACE TALKS SINCE DECEMBER 2015.
“As for the Olympics, the negotiations were successful. But the North made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of discussing or considering a shift in its nuclear strategy, highlighting why South Korea ‘will continue to remain at the mercy of forces out of its control.’
“In the Olympic talks, North Korea, as expected, agreed to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Pyeong Chang Games, including a high-ranking delegation. The North’s participation in the games gives Seoul some assurance that Pyongyang will refrain from disruptive weapons tests during the Winter Olympic events – although there was no guarantee.
“The talks also made progress on broader inter-Korean relations, including an agreement for the two militaries to discuss the easing of border tensions. They also revealed that a military hotline was reopened, adding a second line between the diplomatic sectors was also activated…..”
THE SEOUL GOVERNMENT SAID IT WOULD CONSIDER A TEMPORARY EASING OF SANCTIONS ON TRAVEL BY NORTH KOREAN OFFICIALS IF NEEDED TO ENSURE THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE GAMES. FUTURE TALKS COULD ADDRESS THE REOPENING OF THE JOINT KAESONG INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX – WHICH WOULD REQUIRE A BROADER ROLLBACK OF ANTI-NORTH KOREAN SANCTIONS. OTHER “EASY STEPS” TO BE NEGOTIATED INCLUDE RESTARTING STALLED FAMILY REUNIONS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF JOINT VENTURES ON TOURISM DESTINATIONS.
WORKING-LEVEL NEGOTIATIONS AT PANMUNJOM
IN A RELATED ARTICLE DATELINED SEOUL, REUTERS AND ASSOCIATED PRESS ALSO REPORTED: “NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA HAVE AGREED TO HOLD WORKING-LEVEL TALKS AT THE TONGIL PAVILION ON THE NORTH KOREAN SIDE OF THE TRUCE VILLAGE OF PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA’S UNIFICATION MINISTER CHO MYUNG-KYUN SAID THIS WEEK.
“Inter-Korean talks are held alternately at the Peace House, which is on the South Korean side of Panmunjom in the DMZ, and Tongil Pavilion in the North.
“Officials from North and South earlier this week said they had agreed to hold negotiations to resolve problems and avert accidental conflict, after their first official dialogue in more than two years amid high tension over the North’s weapons program.
“SOUTH KOREA HAD ALSO SAID THAT IT IS SEEKING TO FORM A COMBINED WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM WITH THE NORTH. THE NORTH KOREA’S INTERNATIONAL OLYMPICS COMMITTEE (IOC) OFFICIAL SAID THEY ARE CONSIDERING THIS PROPOSAL, WHILE THE TWO SIDES WILL ALSO HAVE TALKS HOSTED BY IOC ON 20 JANUARY.” (MANILA BULLETIN, 15 JANUARY).
THE SIX PARTY TALKS: FAVORABLE FORMAT
FVR HAS ALWAYS FAVORED A RESUMPTION OF THE ABANDONED SIX PARTY TALKS (SPT) AS THE BEST MULTILATERAL FORMAT TO FOLLOW BECAUSE IT ALSO INCLUDES JAPAN, RUSSIA AND CHINA AS PRINCIPALS.
In his article titled “Nokor-Sokor Peace And Reunification” (Manila Bulletin, 13 September 2015), FVR wrote: “Today, as the two Korean rivals on the opposite sides of the 38th parallel pause to reassess their game plans for the next level of confrontation, and as the rest of the Asia-Pacific maneuver diplomatically to further reduce tensions, our hopes go back to the Six Party Talks for Korean peace and reunification. The SPT (stalled since 11 December 2008 due to Pyongyang’s refusal to agree that verification of its nuclear activities should include scientific samplings) offered the best chances for peace on the Korean peninsula.
“The SPT had been a series of meetings – starting in August 2003 – to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The SPT is participated in by six states – the Republic of Korea (ROK), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), United States (U.S.), People’s Republic of China (PROC), Japan and Russian Federation (RF)….”
These talks started as a result of North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that year. Four rounds of talks from 2003 to 2006 produced little net progress.
DURING THE FIFTH ROUND OF TALKS IN 2007, WHEN NORTH KOREA AGREED TO SHUT DOWN ITS NUCLEAR FACILITIES IN EXCHANGE FOR FUEL AID AND STEPS TOWARDS THE NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS OF NORTH KOREA WITH THE U.S. AND JAPAN, THIS RESULTED IN SUBSTANTIAL PROGRESS AMOUNTING TO A NEAR-BREAKTHROUGH.
MAIN CONTENTS OF THE SIX-PARTY TALKS
SECURITY GUARANTEE – THIS ISSUE HAD BEEN RAISED BY NORTH KOREA SINCE THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TOOK OFFICE IN 2001. NORTH KOREA LABELED THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AS “HOSTILE,” AND THIS CONCERN EXACERBATED WHEN PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH NAMED NORTH KOREA AS PART OF AN “AXIS OF EVIL” IN HIS 2002 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS.
CONSTRUCTION OF LIGHT WATER REACTORS – UNDER THE “1994 AGREED FRAMEWORK,” TWO LIGHT-WATER REACTORS WOULD BE BUILT IN RETURN FOR THE CLOSURE OF NORTH KOREA’S GRAPHITE-MODERATED NUCLEAR POWER PLANT PROGRAM AT YONGBYON.
PEACEFUL USE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY – WHILST THE NPT ALLOWS STATES THE RIGHT TO USE NUCLEAR ENERGY FOR PEACEFUL PURPOSES, IT WAS THOUGHT THAT NORTH KOREA USED THIS AS COVER FOR ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM.
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS – NORTH KOREA BADLY WANTS THE NORMALIZATION OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AS PART OF THE BARGAIN FOR GIVING UP ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM. THE U.S. HAS AT TIMES DISAGREED AND AT TIMES AGREED TO THIS CONDITION, DEPENDING ON WHETHER OR NOT NORTH KOREA IRREVERSIBLY AND VERIFIABLY DISARMS ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM.
FINANCIAL RESTRICTIONS/TRADE NORMALIZATION – THE U.S. HAS PLACED HEAVY FINANCIAL SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA FOR ITS UNWILLINGNESS TO DISMANTLE ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM. IN ADDITION, OTHER PARTIES LIKE CHINA HAVE TAKEN ACTIONS SUCH AS THE FREEZING OF NORTH KOREAN ASSETS IN FOREIGN BANKS AS THE 24 MILLION USD IN MACAU’S BANCO DELTA ASIA.
VERIFIABLE AND IRREVERSIBLE DISARMAMENT – JAPAN AND THE U.S. HAVE DEMANDED THAT NORTH KOREA COMPLETELY DISMANTLE ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM SO THAT IT MAY NEVER BE RESTARTED. CHINA, RUSSIA AND SOUTH KOREA HAVE AGREED ON A MILDER, STEP-BY-STEP SOLUTION.
THE 2018 SITUATION
THE REALITIES TODAY, OF COURSE, DIFFER SUBSTANTIALLY FROM THOSE OF, SAY, 10-12 YEARS AGO WHEN THE SIX PARTY TALKS WERE ON-GOING. THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE COULD BE THE TREMENDOUS PROGRESS OF NORTH KOREA, LED BY LEADER KIM JONG-UN, IN DEVELOPING A LONGER-RANGE NUCLEAR WEAPONS DELIVERY SYSTEM. ALSO, THE EMERGENCE OF IRAN AS A NUCLEAR RIVAL VERSUS THE U.S. HAS MUDDLED THE EQUATION.
ON THE OTHER HAND, THE FORCES OF NATURE, ESPECIALLY SUPER-TYPHOONS, POWERFUL EARTHQUAKES, PANDEMIC DISEASES, ETC., ARE PROVING TO BE MORE DEADLY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.
NOTE: “APOCALYPSE” IS A TRADITIONAL TERM DERIVED FROM THE HOLY BIBLE (CHAPTER 6 – BOOK OF REVELATIONS) WHICH SYMBOLIZES THE “END OF THE WORLD” BECAUSE OF THE “4 HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE”: (1) TERRORISM, CRIME; (2) WARFARE; (3) FAMINE; AND (4) DISEASE.
LESSON LEARNED: READ THE BIBLE AND KORAN REGULARLY.
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