Will North and South Korea build their own path to peace?

September 19, 2018

Today’s news that Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut down one of North Korea’s main missile testing and launch sites and the two Korean leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation” is the third step towards reconciliation and peace taken by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In April the Korea Times reported that the leaders had signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which they made it clear there would be no more war on the peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun (read on here)..

CNN reported New US sanctions against North Korea on September 13th. They were aimed at two Chinese information technology companies, which are North Korean-controlled, according to the US Treasury Department, which alleged that the Russia-based company Volasys Silver Star and China-based China Silver Star had been violating US sanctions.

Despite this and other tensions, on September 12th, the Straits Times reported that North and South Korea will open a joint liaison office at the site of the Kaesong industrial complex, where for about a decade, South Korean companies ran production lines staffed by North Korean workers at the industrial park. A South Korean delegation discussed this in June with North Korean officials at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Seoul said the office will become operational –  working to improve cross-border communications and exchanges – immediately after the opening ceremony on Friday, September 14th. Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea’s delegation said, “The two sides are now able to take a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula by quickly and frankly discussing issues arising from inter-Korean relations”.

The office is a significant move in thawing relations between the two countries, and follows a meeting this month between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and a South Korean presidential envoy and Mr Trump’s warm reaction to a personal letter from Mr Kim offering a second summit with the US.

The two Koreas previously communicated by fax and special telephone lines, which were often severed when their relations took a turn for the worse. Seoul’s patient and persistent unification ministry said the office would become a “round-the-clock consultation and communication channel” for advancing inter-Korean relations, improving ties between the US and the North, and easing military tensions.

If North and South Korea succeed in building their path to peace they could encourage other fractured regions to do so.

Will the Indian sub-continent also begin to act in its people’s best interests?

 

 

 

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Glimpses of Kofi Annan’s work for the United Nations and African agriculture

August 20, 2018

 

Amongst the tributes to Ghanaian-born Kofi Annan is one from Alec Russell, the comment and analysis editor of the Financial Times

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general (1997 to 2006), was at the helm of the UN during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, and the subsequent invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition, which came despite his diplomatic efforts to stave off conflict. His opposition to that war led to a rupture with Washington.

Hella Pick in the Guardian adds that though Annan was by nature a conciliator, a “diplomat’s diplomat”, he also had the courage of his convictions and stuck to his guns even when powerful UN members urged retreat.

“A notable example was his intervention in Baghdad in 1998 to defuse a crisis over UN arms inspections in Iraq, where he went ahead with negotiations, against strong pressure from Washington to stay away; and he spoke out against the US invasion of 2003. Similarly, he defied Britain and the US when he negotiated with Libya to end a security council stalemate over the Lockerbie bombing”.

Alec Russell adds that Kofi Annan was criticised by some when, as head of UN peacekeeping operations in 1994, he was accused of ignoring warnings from his own mission about the impending genocide in Rwanda in which up to 1m people were killed in a matter of months.

He was also in charge of the UN during the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, a humanitarian programme to relieve the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis that ended in widespread abuse and corruption.

In retirement, he served as a UN special envoy for Syria and sought to intervene in Myanmar where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. 

Less well known were his efforts to improve the efficiency of agriculture in Africa

The Kofi Annan Foundation was set up in 2007 to work for a fairer and more peaceful world. One of its projects furthered his dream, which was, Russell added, to transform the lot of Africa’s smallholders so that the world’s poorest continent could feed itself:

“No farmer went unquizzed as we toured smallholdings on the rust-red earth at a blistering pace”.

Seeing agriculture as crucial to lifting tens of millions out of poverty and contributing to wider development goals, he told the FT in 2011. While much of the continent is amazingly fertile, agriculture has long been hobbled by poor infrastructure and transport, meaning that many countries cannot feed their populations, let alone export. The only way Africa could reduce hunger, he concluded, was by increasing food production:

“Africa imports $75bn worth of food each year. For a continent with all the land we have, it’s just intolerable.” Annan urged the US and Europe to remove farm subsidies to help African farmers compete on a level playing field. More detail in a report from a 2017 Malawian newspaper here.

Annan also spearheaded the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic, which was particularly severe in his own continent and he championed the Millennium Development Goals designed to prod governments into reaching minimum standards of health, education and gender equality.

In 2000, a report from an independent commission chaired by Ingvar Carlsson found the UN culpable of weak management and oversight during his time in charge – a time when it was overstretched due to America’s failure to pay its dues. But as the late John Ferguson said in his highly recommended book, Not Them But Us: In Praise of The United Nations:

ferguson 2 not them but us cover (2)“People tend to talk about the UN as `them’. But the UN is not `them’; it is `us’. The UN has no existence apart from the nations which compose it. The Secretary-General and his staff are there to fulfil the decisions of the nations, no less and no more.

“U Thant, the first Asian to hold that office, wrote in his memoirs: `There is a widespread illusion that the Secretary-General is comparable to the head of a government. He is often criticized for failure to take an action – when over 130 sovereign member states collectively fail to act.

“The plain fact is that the United Nations and the Secretary-General have none of the attributes of sovereignty and no independent power.’ So if you hear anyone saying `The UN has failed,’ say to them, `I’m glad you admit your failure. Now what are you going to do about it?” We are the UN; its failures are our failures and its successes are our successes . . . “

 

 

 

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Consensus: conflicts in South Asia will only be resolved by political means

August 13, 2018

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In his election manifesto Pakistan’s prime minister in waiting, Imran Khan, said that his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), will move ahead ‘substantively’ on the bilateral strategic dialogue with India.

He recognises that for lasting peace within the region, especially with its neighbour India, conflict resolution and the security route to cooperation is the most viable. PTI will work on a blueprint towards resolving the Kashmir issue within the parameters of UN Security Council resolutions.

All aspects of the strategic nuclear deterrence will be addressed so as to prevent a spiralling nuclear arms race in the region.

PTI will push for the principle of non-discrimination in all arms control and disarmament measures, including global nuclear disarmament.

Early in July U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, promised support for President Ashraf Ghani’s bid to start peace talks with the Taliban

He said that the United States would be willing to join the talks. However a week later Reuters reported that the Taliban have rejected talks which would include the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which they see as illegitimate and instead insisted they would only talk with the United States.

The US has refused to talk to the Taliban ever since the Afghan government failed to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The un-named author of FT View, two weeks later, said that it is time to bring the Taliban ‘inside the tent’

S/he comments that, initially, the US stance stemmed from hubris — an enduring and fateful characteristic of nearly two centuries of Afghan expeditions. They expected to defeat the Taliban swiftly and completely and though the US military has abandoned the hope of a swift end to the war, it clings on to its belief that victory is possible, if only more resources were made available.

The first attempt after 9/11 to gather competing Afghan groups to sit down and talk in Bonn in 2001 led to a reasonable outline for a new Afghan state. The Taliban, however, were not invited to the meeting in Bonn, nor to the jirgas or plebiscites, held afterwards in Afghanistan to legitimise the agreements made there. FT View writes that the Taliban have been exacting revenge for their exclusion ever since.

Today, FT View states, the Taliban control or contest more than 40% of the country and civilian fatalities in 2018 have hit a record high, adding, “However hard it will be, it is time to bring them inside the tent”.

It adds that most Afghans have welcomed the NATO forces because of their state’s weakness and the security force’s frailties. Yet they have always understood that the insurgency, here as elsewhere, would only be resolved by political not military means.

The FT reflects that Gen Nicholson, who has spent much of the past 10 years building relationships with Afghans of all factions, is widely respected in that country. Is it too much to hope that he could work with a team including Imran Khan?

Afghanistan’s Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali yesterday welcomed Mr Khan’s victory statement: “We hope that the positive speeches that Imran Khan gave on his victory day will be realised by practical steps that we will also see in the future”. 

 

 

 

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Peace accord brings hope to the Horn of Africa

July 21, 2018

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Poor economic prospects, repression and military conscription made Eritrea one of Africa’s biggest sources of refugees bound for Europe.

David Pilling, noted author and FT columnist reports a ‘diplomatic turnround’ which has taken place with far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond, commenting, “Yet no one outside the continent has paid much attention”. Abiy Ahmed, the recently elected young Ethiopian prime minister has transformed the atmosphere in a country that had been beset by years of civil strife.

The two men later met and signed a peace agreement that brings to an end a 20-year stand-off since the bloody conflict of 1998-2000. Pilling adds that the accord was made possible largely due to the forward thinking of Mr Abiy, at 41 Africa’s youngest leader, who offered to cede land in accordance with a peace deal that was never implemented.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed the accord and later marked the diplomatic thaw between their once-warring nations with hugs and warm words in front of an ecstatic crowd at a concert celebrating the end of one of Africa’s longest conflicts.

Jane Flanagan (the Times) describes a visibly moved Isaias Afwerki addressing thousands of jubilant well-wishers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on his first visit to the country in 22 years. As he was welcomed by flag-waving Ethiopians chanting his name, he said: “Hate, discrimination and conspiracy is now over. No one can steal the love we have regained now. Now is the time to make up for the lost times.”

Mr Isaias’s visit followed one made to his capital by Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, when the leaders signed a historic five-point declaration to end a border war that has claimed 100,000 lives. They used their second summit to commit to restoring trade and transport links and reopening embassies.

“The reconciliation we are forging now is an example to people across Africa and beyond,” Mr Abiy said.

In a speech at the weekend to welcome Mr Isaias, Mr Abiy said: “We have finally found our sister nation after many years of hiding.” The summit culminated in a celebration of music and dance last night at the Millennium Hall, attended by 25,000 ticket holders.

David Pilling noted some of the real and immediate practical implications of the deal:

  • Daily flights between the two capitals, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, will start next week.
  • The unblocking of telephone lines between the neighbouring states led to emotional reunions between families and friends who had been separated for decades, events compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Eritrea’s economic outlook should improve.
  • Landlocked Ethiopia will get access to two Eritrean ports, giving it an alternative to shipping goods in and out of Djibouti.

Alongside developments in African countries including Zimbabwe and Angola, it will be another sign of potential political rejuvenation on the continent and if the peace deal holds, the international community should stand ready to engage.

Pilling adds that observers say if the peace deal holds it could help to stabilise neighbouring Somalia. The benefits could reach far north, because an end to conflict and repression in Eritrea could reduce the number of its citizens migrating to Europe.

 

 

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George Macpherson: “Can Britain convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?”

July 13, 2018

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An extract from an article by George Macpherson

Our ‘national defence’ forces do a lot of good: let’s keep them.

We are not against men and women in uniform – simply against the violence that is a small part of their existence. There are so many ‘better things to do’ that, in the long term, are less expensive.

  • Our politicians, influenced strongly by arms manufacturers, allow war while, personally, keeping away from any battlefield.
  • Every missile, mine, lethal drone, bullet and bomb exported supports our treasury and pension funds.
  • Our children are brought up to admire military exploits and stories of valour.
  • We celebrate our assassins and condone distant killing by remote control.

Can Britain, also, convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?

This is a suggestion as to how – by keeping: the command structure; the recruitment; the excellent training in so many artisan and technical skills; the great engineering ingenuity; the communications excellence; the medical expertise; the pomp and pageantry; awards for bravery; the camaraderie and team spirit; the career structure; the overseas bases to meet emergencies; the sporting teams and the rules of conduct.

In my experience, all these existing things are not to be much bettered –I served three years in the RAF in the 1950s. Since then I have worked for other large organisations, but the RAF was outstanding in its procedures, humanity and efficiency.

Let us redefine the role of our military services and leave out weapons of war, mass destruction and combat. Instead, let’s expand into the design and development of nonlethal defence equipment for emergency use against crazed violence, criminal acts and despotic rulers.

Let’s refine prevention nets, vehicle cripplers, darting, Tasers, anaesthetic gases and, of course, digital intelligence to predict future incidents and prevent them.

Let’s redirect our spending towards, for example, disaster relief; housing and services; renewable energy; rapid response to pandemics; the United Nations and international law and order; and environmental conservation.

Read the complete article here: https://thefriend.org/magazine/issue/7600

 

Note that the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has adopted a non-lethal strategy in along the border with Bangladesh. The force uses arms only for self-defence and fires weapons which are non-lethal.

 

 

 

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US military intervention in the post-world war two period: Professor Ralph M. Coury

July 10, 2018

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In the Financial Times, Ralph M. Coury, Professor Emeritus of History, Fairfield University, UC, briefly comments on Martin Wolf’s description of US military intervention in the post-world war two period, carried out in order to serve its interests while providing “beneficial ends” more broadly, as merely being “big mistakes”: (Trump’s war on the liberal world order, July 4).

He adds that Wolf’s description hardly does justice to the significance of such operations. In addition to these formally acknowledged military interventions were other ‘integral components’:

  • coups d’état,
  • assassinations,
  • proxy wars,
  • the sponsorship of internal rebellions against popular governments,
  • sanctions
  • and interference in elections.

All promoted “an imperialist, hegemonic structure whose masters were hardly inhibited by humanitarian restraints when their domination was threatened”.

Readers who – like the editor – have not been aware of Professor Coury’s work will find an online search rewarding. In lighter vein see a short video: From America to Uzbekistan!

 

 

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Air Commodore Alastair Mackie, CBE, DFC and Bar, RAF pilot and CND campaigner: an appreciation

June 26, 2018

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In the 1980s Alistair Mackie signed the Just Defence Charter and, after reaffirming support by email on 15/01/2009, agreed to be placed on the C3000 mailing list. The editor now regrets that his e-messages were not saved, most being a few appreciative words whenever CND’s work was mentioned.

Appointed acting pilot officer in 1941, he was staying at The Royal Empire Society, now the Royal Commonwealth Society, near St James’s Palace. Unable to sleep, he made his way to the roof, saw the capital ablaze from an air raid and vowed to hit back.

In June 1944, during the Normandy landings, Mackie dropped soldiers and supplies from his Dakota aircraft, avoiding intense anti-aircraft fire. Other incidents of bravery and initiative are described in the Telegraph obituary (paywall, see text in link to Bruce Kent’s post).

In the 1950s, when Alastair Mackie was commanding a Royal Air Force squadron of nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers, the Times obituary reports, he realised that the degree of target accuracy in the radar assisted Vulcan was irrelevant – with nuclear weapons the area of destruction would be vast.

After moving to a senior role at the Ministry of Defence and seeing political machinations at close quarters, Mackie became a staunch critic of the government’s nuclear policy and vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He felt that nuclear weapons were incompatible with his Christian faith and resigned from RAF at the age of 45, (see Bruce Kent’s CND post which includes the Telegraph obituary).

Mackie remained convinced that Britain’s nuclear strategy was ineffective, immoral and wasteful. In a 2009 letter to The Times he called Trident a “stick-on hairy chest virility symbol”.

His first book was Some of the People all the Time (Book Guild Publishing in 2006) and this post ends with a reflection in the memoirs of his service with the RAF, Flying Scot: An Airman’s Story.(2012):

“Man’s inhumanity to man has given place to man’s suicidal inhumanity to the planet . . . My shame at having been part of it as a Vulcan pilot is mitigated only by decades of membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Alistair Mackie: born on August 3, 1922, died on May 19, 2018

 

 

 

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