By Dr. Jose C. De Venecia Jr.
It is now clear that having developed nuclear weapons and a delivery system that can reach the US and thus achieving leverage, a measure of self-confidence for his own country’s safety, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is now shifting his attention to improving the lives of the North Korean people.
We understand foreigners who live in Pyongyang attest that they can now live normal lives and for North Koreans there is perhaps less reason today to flee the north and move via Beijing to South Korea.
It will still take some time, assuming further improvement in North-South and US-North Korea relations for the 38th Parallel in the Demilitarized Zone to open up and allow free movement among families between the two Koreas. But the forces of geo-politics and the good intentions of true and great leaders and their peoples will eventually make this possible and a reality.
We have just received a letter of invitation from Pyongyang inviting us to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for their September 9 70th founding anniversary from Kim Mun Chol, secretary-general of the Korea-Philippines Friendship Society.
We are inclined to accept and it is our hope that we might invite representatives from the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) to perhaps help advise their countries and send observers to support the movements towards peace in the Korean Peninsula.
In Manila, our own President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano recently concluded successful visits to South Korea and extended full support for efforts for the eventual denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula.
The North Korean economy is still weak but is gaining ground and a middle class is slowly emerging not only in Pyongyang but in other towns of the north. The probability of progress towards peace in North Korea will move China to repair its weakened relations with the North and especially assist in rebuilding the North’s poor roads, airports and seaports.
Normalization with South Korea will mean further infrastructure and industrial benefits for the North. Certainly, the US, Japan, followed by Russia and some members of ASEAN will also extend contributions to the effort.
As we noted in our columns in the Bulletin of April and May, and lately in BizNews Asia of May 21, we outlined a 10-point politico-economic action plan for North Korea towards a possible or likely Omnibus Agreement and a Permanent Peace Treaty with South Korea and the US.
Assuming that the June 12 Summit meeting in Singapore between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be successful, it would still be prudent not to expect immediate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
This process will obviously come in stages and take several years and subject to mutual sincerity and constant checking.
But the economic benefits that will begin to ensue, from the start of normalization, mainly in the North, will be hopefully and immediately felt, and in return, the North will move towards a normal but steady process of yeilding its nuclear weapons, including obviously a process of normal verification.
China will also have an opportunity to improve its relations with North Korea which, to some extent, it has neglected in recent years, and the North had carried on largely on its own.
The North’s peace-making with the US and the South will also conduce to some improvement in the US-China relations.
Major mention must be made of the special and dedicated role played by the South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who is not exactly a veteran diplomat but who, since assuming the South Korean presidency, has performed exceedingly well in two meetings with Kim Jong-Un, who himself has admirably matured in spite of his comparative youth in his early thirties.
We must mention our dear friend, former South Korean Ambassador Chung Eui-yong, who temporarily left our midst as our secretary-general and our co-chairman in the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) to assume the role of South Korea’s National Security Adviser.
On behalf of President Moon, he went to Pyongyang for initial talks with the North Korean leader, reported to his boss in Seoul, and went on to brief the presidents of the US and China.
We now await the results of the Singapore talks beginning June 12.