Korea: a welcome development

January 3, 2018

A fence decorated with ribbons carrying messages calling for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea

The government of South Korea has invited Pyongyang to talks about participating in next month’s Winter Olympics in a swift response to proposals by Kim Jong-un  to improve relations.

Removing negative remarks the news is that Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul’s unification minister in charge of inter-Korean relations, has proposed a meeting on January 9.between high-ranking government officials of the two nations at the border village of Panmunjom, the only portion of the Korean demilitarized zone where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face.

“We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties,” Cho Myoung-gyon said, “We think that the suspended inter-Korean communication channels should be immediately restored.”

Two Sisters monument on the outskirts of Pyeongyang. The two women symbolize the two Koreas and the desire for reunification.

Kim Jong-un emphasised the importance of improving relations between the two Koreas and referred to the possibility of direct talks between the two sides. He said: “The North and the South should promote bilateral contact . . . to remove mutual misunderstanding and distrust.”

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, ordered his staff to act on Mr Kim’s offer of dialogue “Improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are not separate from each other,” Mr Moon said, adding that South Korea would consult its allies ahead of any talks.

Mr Kim also expressed interest in sending a delegation to the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month

North and South Korea have occasionally collaborated in sporting occasions, sending a joint team to an international table tennis tournament in 1991 and marching under a shared flag, though with separate teams, at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

Kim added: “The Winter Olympic Games will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. We are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures.”

 A peace statue at the 3rd of 4 tunnels

 

Will reunification – the hope of many – symbolised above, be realised one day?

 

 

 

o

Advertisements

US-based Human Rights Foundation’s ultimate aim: to use ‘soft power’ to bring down the North Korean regime

December 31, 2017

.

The USA’s use of soft power has been effective with many worldwide, presenting an illusion of a free society (‘liberating minds’) and reinforcing a consumerist culture and the political regimes which collude with it.

On this site in 2015 there was an account of soft power – money and commodities poured from the United States into the Middle East. In the name of normality and freedom, all but the strongest young people are being remade in the image of the Western consumer whereas hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone.

One actor in the North Korean soft power drive is the Human Rights Foundation, whose approving Wikipedia entry emphasises its insistence on ‘economic freedom’. In Central and South America and the Middle East it has paved the way for the overthrow of regimes which would not play that game.

In North Korea jeans and pop music, though still part of the scene, have been supplemented by hydrogen balloons packed with DVDs, dollar bills and propaganda leaflets. Drones now drop USB flash drives full of news bulletins and documentaries aim to counter NK’s state propaganda with that of the United States; American movies and television shows to spread pro-Western sentiment were called “flash drives for freedom”. See Business Insider’s  informative account of this, published last year.

With the help of defectors USB-sticks are smuggled through towns on China’s border with North Korea and sold in the flourishing black market for goods and information. The Human Rights Foundation “has financed balloon drops of pamphlets, TV shows, books and movies over a course of several years”.

Its founder Thor Halvorssen, according to Joakim Mollersen a Norwegian economist and journalist, also set up the Oslo Freedom Forum whose  story, he says in some detail, is one  of US right-wing sponsorship, lack of transparency and “heroes of human rights” involved in supporting serious human rights violations.

State propaganda is ardently supplemented by this foundation which paid for a balloon drop of 10,000 copies of an edited version of the movie The Interview, and North Korea’s move towards becoming a denuclearized ‘democracy’, following its leader’s assassination.

In 2014, HRF hosted the world’s first hackathon for North Korea at Code for America’s offices in San Francisco. According to the Wall Street Journal, “about 100 hackers, coders and engineers gathered in San Francisco to brainstorm ways to pierce the information divide that separates North Korea from the rest of the world.”

For objective information about North Korea see http://www.nkeconwatch.com/

Alex Gladstein, HRF’s chief strategy officer calls this an ‘information war’ – the only way to inspire change: ”a third way . . .to liberate minds  . . . Given the history of Eastern Europe, I hope that people can think about the potential of information rather than reckless conflict and provocation and totally failed diplomacy”.

These soft power illusions of American normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence tricks. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young people have been led, by soft power, to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, are extremes of economic inequality, youth unemployment, high cost housing, military aggression, pollution, gun slaughter, child abuse, violent pornography, and inequality.

 

 

o


Benjamin Netanyahu receives two reasonable requests

December 28, 2017

l

Earlier this month, MEP Molly Scott Cato added her signature to a ‘bill’ to the Israeli prime minister, coordinated by SNP MEP Alyn Smith. It requires Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to repay the EU at least €1.5m for the demolition of homes, schools, playgrounds and water and electricity infrastructure that were funded by the EU.

She explained: “The EU is a generous donor to infrastructure and services that improve the lives of people in Palestine. Netanyahu’s visit to Brussels is an excellent opportunity to remind Israel that we expect them to pay for the destruction to those projects, paid for through European taxes, that his violent policies in Gaza and the West Bank have destroyed.

“The EU continues to support Palestinians’ right to lead a decent and secure life in a state of their own. We continue to condemn the actions of the Israeli government in attempting to drive Palestinians out of the land that is rightfully theirs.”

Details of the humanitarian aid projects which Israel has been demolishing are listed on her website. Since Netanyahu became PM in 2009, Israel has demolished 5293 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, displacing 8540 people from their homes. At least 400 of these have been EU and member state funded structures, worth almost over € 1.5m, though these figures only cover the EU contribution to the humanitarian structures, not their full cost.

A Palestinian man inspects the ruins of a playground demolished by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank village of Zaatara, near Nablus

The Jerusalem Post and Le Monde report that in October EU members, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Luxembourg, Ireland and Denmark, the donors of a European humanitarian consortium, decided to formalize their frustration in writing after the destruction of school equipment and the confiscation of solar panels they had financed in the West Bank.

The signatories of the letter delivered to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, set out a claim for compensation for the damage suffered, ie 31,252 euros, writing: “We are still hopeful that our requests for restitution can be met without preconditions as soon as possible, otherwise Israel will have to provide compensation without delay”.

 

 

 

o


On the steps of the MoD, Bruce Kent presents ‘peace prizes’ to activists from MEDACT, ICAN, WILPF and many others

December 12, 2017

This account was prompted by a tweet by Roslyn Cook (campaigning in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty and a global nuclear weapon free zone) and an article in Beat (the “go to” multi-platform radio station for entertaining & informing young adults in the South East)

On the 10th December, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN, for its “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

On Saturday, the day before the award in Oslo, Bruce Kent hosted an ‘award ceremony’ at the MoD in celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize – which honours the tireless efforts of thousands of people across the world who brought about the nuclear ban.

His ‘peace prize’ was presented to activists from @Medact @ICAN_UK @WILPF and many others on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London. Read a fuller account on an allied website.

Beat reported extracts from Bruce Kent’s address

Bruce, the vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), thinks that Britain is “uniquely placed” to become the first nuclear power to “come off the fence”. During a period of heightened nuclear tensions arising from North Korea’s military tests, said no one wins in nuclear war: “It is a very dangerous time because a man like Trump really is not sufficiently informed to know what he is dealing with. He is still living in a kind of cowboy world, where the one with the bigger gun somehow wins. Well nobody wins with a nuclear war – there is no winning. We have had precarious times before, like the Cuban crisis, but this is quite a dangerous one – granted his volatile method of talking and thinking.”

He said the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent would be a ‘gross waste of money’:

“They always talk about it as if it was just the building of the things. But if you add the building and the running of them it is something like £300 billion which could be spent on housing or hospitals, or social services, or overseas aid – that money does not get challenged.”

We note that in November 2012 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlined its projections for year-on-year spending up to 2016/17 (above).

Mr Kent said the UK does not have an independent nuclear weapon

The country depends entirely on the Americans to supply the missiles: “If America or Trump said no more missiles for Britain, in six months we would no longer have a nuclear arsenal. We would have the warheads, but we wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. We are well placed to be the first nuclear power to come off the fence.”

Asked if he thinks North Korea is a particular threat, Mr Kent said: “I think North Korea has nuclear weapons because of the world it lives in. It is looking out at the American fleet, it is looking at nuclear weapons pointed at it and it thinks to itself, just like Mrs May probably, that it is safer to have nuclear than not to have them. I think it is more dangerous for everybody. The answer to the North Korea problem is to get rid of American nuclear weapons from that area and de-target North Korea – not to encourage them to copy us. If nuclear weapons provide security there is no common sense in saying that other countries should not have them.”

MEDACT, ICAN and WILPF staged a ceremony which included the presentation of a handmade Nobel Peace Prize coin and speeches. They also called on the Government to sign up to the newly approved UN treaty that bans nuclear weapons, and staged a “die in”, where the 25 activists lay sprawled on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London (above) to highlight the human cost of nuclear war.

 

 

m

 


Pyeongchang hope: the Olympic Games of Peace

November 22, 2017

Ice-sculpture

In an interview with CNN, South Korean President Moon Jae-in recalled that the 1988 Seoul Games had played a part in ending the Cold War era by bringing countries together and expressed the hope that the 2018 Winter Olympics will help to build relationships in Asia.

He continued: “I hope that North Korea will also participate, which will provide a very good opportunity for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation. And to this, we are closely consulting and cooperating with the IOC.”

North and South Korea regularly compete in friendlies and international competition, notably the Asian Cup. Earlier this year, a qualifier for the Asian Cup — held in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang — attracted more than 40,000 fans to the Kim Il Sung Stadium. President Moon believes that, over the coming years, sport offers a chance for all nations in the to reconcile.:

“After the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing. So in two years’ term, the Olympic Games will be held Korea, Japan and China and I believe that this can provide a good opportunity to build peace and cooperation within the Northeast Asian region”.

Dr Kyungjin Song, President of the Institute for Global Economics in Seoul, responded to a negative article in the Financial Times which focussed mainly on the number of unsold tickets and the threat of disruptive provocation from the North. She addressed the issue of direct and immediate benefits from such big international events by saying, “Economic benefits are both immediate and long-term. Intangible long-term benefits such as improved national image and institutional capacity are even greater” and reminding all concerned to “Beware of short-termism”.

CNN stresses the positive:

  • New infrastructure completed includes highways as well as a direct train line from the country’s main international airport to Pyeongchang and other host locations.
  • The government will also rollout a 5G mobile network around the venues. Facilities have been constructed on schedule.
  • Chinese diplomats close to the matter are alleged to have said that President Xi Jinping will confirm his attendance at the opening or the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, or both, at the forthcoming Korea-China bilateral summit in December.
  • Two North Korean figure skaters have qualified but the country’s organising committee has yet to decide whether it will participate.

“We’d all like to see North Korea participate,” says Mr Kim of the organising committee. “The more, the merrier.”

And many will wish Dr Kyungjin Song well as she urges Korea to redouble its efforts towards participation of the North Korean team to make the Pyeongchang Games the Olympic Games of Peace.

 

 

 

m


In Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury: a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war

November 11, 2017

Photograph by Valerie Flessati, who designed two peace trails, one through central London and one from Tavistock Square to the Imperial War Museum

This news came from Peter van den Dungen, who attended the unveiling of a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war.

It was placed on the large building in Museum Mansions, Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury  where the Pugwash organisation – of which he was a founder – has an office, in which Professor Rotblat worked for many years. About 90 people were there and afterwards attended a reception in the Polish embassy.

The embassy’s website:

“The plaque is the result of a collaboration between the Polish Heritage Society UK (PHS), a charity dedicated to celebrating the achievements of Poles in the UK and their contribution to British life, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the United Kingdom and the British Pugwash”.

The Camden New Journal adds that the plaque was funded by money given to residents and civic groups to thank them for ‘accommodating’ the shooting of part of the film Wonder Woman in Bloomsbury, which – appropriately – had an anti-war message.

Joseph Rotblat, who described himself as “a Pole with a British passport”, was born in Warsaw on 4th November, 1908, and carried out his initial research into nuclear fission there, moving to Britain just before the outbreak of Second World War.  Read on here.

In 1944, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory in the US as part of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the development of nuclear weapons.

Shocked by the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, Rotblat was determined that his research should serve only peaceful ends and devoted himself to studying the medical and biological uses of radiation. In 1949, he became Professor of Physics at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. 

Rotblat became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race. In 1957, he chaired the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organisation that brought together scholars and public figures from both sides of the Iron Curtain and around the world to work towards reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats, particularly those related to nuclear warfare.

The Nobel Peace Prize 1995 was awarded jointly to Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms”

From our archives:

  • Professor Joseph Rotblat (CBE) was one of 32 signatories of the CHARTER FOR ‘JUST DEFENCE’.
  • In 1998 Peter van den Dungen met Professor Rotblat in London and had a long discussion about the peace museum, which Rotblat wished to support – but based in London, initially perhaps in the Dome. . .
  • Rotblat’s voice may be heard briefly in this podcast and in the powerful video War No More, with Bruce Kent, Martin Bell, Caroline Lucas, and Desmond Tutu, who spoke about the defensive defence policies of Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand.

And the latest word this year comes from his close friend and colleague Bruce Kent:

“Let’s return to Joseph Rotblat, who years ago took us back to fundamentals. In his ‘A World without War’ speech in 2002 he said: ‘getting rid of nuclear weapons is not enough. To safeguard the future of humanity we have to eliminate not only the instruments of waging war, but war itself.’

“Time to write to your local paper explaining what a lot of dangerous nonsense is today passing for defence”.

 

 

 

c


”The fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta”

November 7, 2017

 

Reuters reported in April that Pope Francis advocated conflict mediation by a third country like Norway between the United States and North Korea. A third country, Pope Francis said, could “cool a situation” that had become “too hot.”

As armed conflicts rage across the world in numerous countries, and amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, a reader sent a link to Pope Francis’ call for an end to “useless massacres” in an emotional anti-war homily at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy, where nearly 8,000 World War II soldiers are buried: “Please Lord, stop. No more wars.”

He told several thousand people that he believed the world was heading into what could be its biggest war yet, according to Reuters. Commemorating the young soldiers who died in World War II was of particular significance today, he said, because “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.”

Associated Press reported that before visiting the U.S. military cemetery Francis warned that “humanity risks suicide” with the increased danger of nuclear war between the United States and North Korea.

As part of the Vatican’s efforts to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, the Vatican will host a two-day conference starting Nov. 10 of several Nobel peace laureates, international ambassadors and representatives from NATO and the United Nations.

Francis will address the conference on its opening day, and speakers will include Masako Wada, a notable disarmament activist who survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Other speakers include Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, and Rose Gottemoeller, an American diplomat and NATO’s deputy secretary-general

The governments of China, Japan, and South Korea have also called for restraint in the midst of Trump’s handling of the crisis with North Korea, urging him to call Kim to the negotiating table.

President Trump has responded to Kim’s recent missile launches and nuclear tests by threatening the isolated country with “fire and fury” and saying he would “totally destroy” North Korea, home to 25 million civilians, if the nuclear activity continued. In light of Trump’s rhetoric, Pope Francis said in his speech, “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.” He added that “humanity must not forget” the suffering of those who have lost loved ones to war. “Humanity has not learned the lesson and seems that it does not want to learn it,” he said.

In the visitors’ book at the cemetery, he wrote, “This is the fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta. Forgive us, Lord.”

 

 

 

b