Korean update

January 30, 2019

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The last reference on this site was the cheering April declaration by the two Korean leaders that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In a September agreement, the Koreas pledged gradually to withdraw all guard posts within the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone. They also agreed to create buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries, as well as a no-fly zone above the border. South Korean President Moon Jae-in described the agreement as an important trust-building step that will reduce border tensions.

Associated Press reported in October that the North and South Korean militaries agreed to destroy 22 front-line guard posts by the end of November as they discussed their next steps in implementing the September agreement. In a statement released after the general-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom they agreed to conduct a November joint survey of a 70km waterway near their western border which will eventually be used by civilian vessels from both countries.

The Koreas and the U.S.-led U.N. Command completed removing firearms and troops from a jointly controlled area at the border village and have been clearing mines from front-line areas. They plan to start their first joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War in April. South Korea’s Defence Ministry issued a statement that the Koreas plan to jointly verify that all these measures have been carried out in December.

November: the road built across the military demarcation line inside the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea.

Seoul’s defence ministry announced that North and South Korea have connected a road across their shared border for the first time in 14 years, in the latest reconciliation gesture. The dirt road, which is wholly within the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, will be used for joint operations next year to recover remains from the 1950-53 Korean War as agreed at the Pyongyang summit between the South’s President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un in September.

The BBC reported that in November, for the first time in more than a decade, a train travelled from South Korea across the heavily guarded border into North Korea.

When the leaders of North and South Korea had their historic meeting in April, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un asked for help with updating his country’s railways, which he said were in an “embarrassing” state.

South Korean engineers boarded the train in Dorasan, just north of Seoul, on Friday morning for the short journey to the Demilitarised Zone which has divided the Korean peninsula since the Korean War in the 1950s. They will live on the train for the next 18 days while inspecting 1,200km (745 miles) of track and railway infrastructure.

In December, the Koreas jointly verified the removal of the border Armed Guard Posts. Voice of America reports that a South Korean delegation left for North Korea on to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for reconnecting roads and railways across the divided peninsula despite stalled denuclearization talks. Joint railway and road inspections are to take place this month in preparation for this project.

In January, following a visit by Mr Kim’s top aide to Washington, the FT reported that the White House has confirmed that a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump will take place at the end of February.

 

 

 

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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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IALANA’s work includes developing mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes

May 3, 2018

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The International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) attended the  UN’s second Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (23 April -4 May 2018) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Its presentation on the nuclear arms race may be read here:  https://www.ialana.info/2018/04/nuclear-arms-racing-is-antithetical-to-the-npt/.

The Chair-designate of the first session is Ambassador Adam Bugajski of Poland (right). Read more here.

IALANA is an international association of lawyers and lawyers’ organisations working for the elimination of nuclear arms, the strengthening of international law and the development of effective mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

  • Founded in 1988 in Stockholm IALANA has grown into a fully-fledged international citizens’ organization with consultative status with the United Nations. IALANA has also expanded its scope of action to include:
  • efforts to abolish all types of inhumane weapons and to control the international arms trade,
  • advancing concepts of security based on the application of law and legal mechanisms, development of non-offensive defence and implementation of confidence building measures,
  • encouraging the establishment and use of the International Criminal Court and other legal procedures to address crimes against international humanitarian law.

IALANA has affiliates all over the world including: Costa Rica, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States of America. Its international offices are in Berlin, Germany (Head Office), Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand (Pacific Office) and New York (United Nations Office)

 

 

 

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Pope Francis’ Easter message – summary and link to full text

April 3, 2018

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis implored the world to seek out solutions to its geopolitical conflicts.

Excerpts from Ana Campoy’s summary:

He first addressed the “beloved and long-suffering land of Syria” in his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and the World”) address. “May the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course”.

Then he asked that the warring parties respect humanitarian laws and open access to the country so aid could be delivered to the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ravaged by civil war.

The Pope cast a blessing on the rest of the Middle East, too, “so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

In addition, he addressed conflict in South Sudan, pleading that the world “not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children!”, and Venezuela, where he hoped for “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Francis also offered a blessing for those trying to ratchet down tensions in the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea’s current leaders are set to meet at the end of April for the first time; US president Donald Trump has said he will sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by May, saying:

“May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment.”

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon leave their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions under way may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We pray for the fruits of new life for those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

The love of God “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

 

 

The full text of the pope’s 2018 Sunday Easter address: https://qz.com/1242396/on-easter-sunday-pope-francis-doled-out-blessings-to-syria-and-other-geopolitical-hotspots/

 

 

 

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Ministry for Peace initiative – recruiting

January 28, 2018

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“We must wage peace with sophistication and commitment just as we now wage war.” Marianne Williamson, US Department of Peace Initiative

In 2003 a bill was presented to Parliament to pave the way for the formation of a Ministry for Peace. Introducing his bill, Labour MP John McDonnell called for a new Government Department whose sole purpose would be to focus the resources of government on the promotion of peace and the eventual abolition of war. Diana Basterfield was active in organising meetings and a support network

In 2011 he set up and chaired the all-party group on conflict prevention and conflict resolution whose secretariat was provided by Engi. The group went into ‘abeyance’ seeking another way forward in 2016.

Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that he will appoint a minister for peace and disarmament if he becomes Prime Minister. The Labour leader outlined his plan in an hour-long documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach, detailing his interactions with party supporters. A brief video on the subject may be seen here.

In November, Conscience met the Shadow Minister for Peace & Disarmament, Mr Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East at a meeting where many gathered to hear what a Minister for Peace & Disarmament would really do, what their role would consist of, and suggest their own thoughts on what the Minister’s remit should be.

A member of Scientists for Global Responsibility has forwarded information from Conscience, which campaigns for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding, and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and preparation for war.

Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War is looking for someone to write an evidence-based academic paper on the pros and cons of having a Minister for Peace/Ministry for Peace in the UK based on experiences elsewhere and anticipated benefits here. The post will be fully funded by Conscience.

Details are here:

http://www.conscienceonline.org.uk/2018/01/conscience-is-hiring/

 

 

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The journey into world disorder: 14 years later – a downward spiral?

January 23, 2018

Extracts from the introduction*: Martin Bell writes

“This is a time for storm warnings if ever there was one. Some of those storms, of war and terrorism, are already breaking over us. We worry ourselves to bits about little and local issues ­footpaths, flight paths, career paths and the like, as if the conditions of peace and freedom, on which our societies depend for their normal functioning, are natural entitlements, which can safely be taken for granted  . . .

It is when war becomes a local issue that we really will have something to worry about. And it is worth remembering that in the end war always is a local issue, claiming individual lives in specific places. It is the trench or cellar or street or field where its victims, soldiers or civilians, breathe their last. It is the pilot who says, `I didn’t know who was there. I really didn’t care. You fall totally into execute mode and kill the target‘ . . .

“If we don’t blow ourselves into oblivion the quest for regime change, or whatever other military adventures attract our leaders, and if we don’t continue to go to war for its own sake, then future generations will look back on life in the Western democracies at the start of the twenty-first century, at least until 11 September 2001, as a sort of golden age, or fools’ paradise – depending on the strength of the hostile forces ranged against us.

From where I have been and what I have seen, my antennae tell me that the fools’ paradise theory is very much nearer the mark. The Second Gulf War, an exercise of raw power that applied the values of the Wild West to the relations between states, has sharpened the edge of the argument . . .

“We share with creatures who are in every respect less destructive than we are. With a few exceptions, the fiercest predator or venomous reptile kills only one at a time, for food or in self-defence, and is benign in relation to man.

“We kill our own more than any other species on earth, and we do it to the point of genocide. In the ratio of civilian to military casualties, the wars in the collapsed states of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have mocked the Geneva Conventions and victimized the innocent to an unprecedented degree.

“Weapons of mass destruction proliferate – and not only those in the hands of sovereign or rogue states. A passenger jet flown into a skyscraper is as much a weapon of mass destruction as a nuclear warhead. So is a sea mine rolled downhill into a village, or a 500 pound aircraft bomb bolted to a rocket and fired into a crowded city centre, or a mortar bomb aimed at a market place. These are not imagined examples. I have seen their effects at first hand  . . . 

“The Cold War was safer than this . . .

“Our way of life is defended by new and ever more ingenious ways of death. The sole remaining superpower seeks out its enemies and blasts them with the firepower of its missiles, drones, long-range bombers and carrier-based aircraft. By answering terror with counter-terror, it bids for the status of the world’s most hated nation. Too bad about the collateral damage and the needless taking of life. The higher the warplanes fly, the harder it is for their pilots to distinguish between a friend and a foe, an allied and an enemy reconnaissance vehicle (Iraq), a tank and a tractor (Kosovo), a terrorist cell and a wedding party (Afghanistan). The mark of Cain is upon us . . .

Language is another casualty

“When we speak of degrading an enemy’s assets, what we actually mean is killing people – the unarmed and the armed, the innocent and the guilty, blown to bits in the same high-explosive inferno. The same applies to `blue on blue’ or ‘friendly fire’ – the code for attacking our allies. Power and ignorance, like officers and maps, are a dangerous combination . . .

“The United Nations, the last best hope of mankind, is a forlorn cave of winds on New York’s First Avenue – invoked (when it is convenient to do so and bypassed when it isn’t

“The most vital issues of war and peace are resolved in something close to a state of anarchy. The rule of international law is whatever the White House, with an obedient echo from Downing Street, says that it is in the New American Century. ‘If we need to act we will act,’ said President Bush, `and we don’t need the approval of the United Nations to do so’ . . .

The war in Iraq, waged without a specific or sufficient United Nations mandate, was the sort of imperial enterprise that, in the sweep of history, belonged more to the nineteenth than the twenty-­first, century. It was gunboat diplomacy, conducted not with ships’ cannons, but with all the weapons of mass destruction that at the science of the new millennium can procure . . .

Our media, which should be informing us, are instead turning out the light and joining the stampede from reality in the blind and mad pursuit of commercial advantage, of profit without honour.

“The culture of celebrity, like an army of ants, has colonized the news pages both tabloid and broadsheet . . . Television is the god that failed . . . It has not yet become the worst that it can be, but it is working hard on the project and is still on a downward trajectory. Just when you think it has hit the bottom, it finds new depths to plumb.

“The outcome is that it serves us less as a window on the world than as a barrier to it. Its screen is only a screen in the original sense – something that blocks our view of what lies on the other side of it . . . and then, because we find these things strangely unreal (and they have already been censored by the `good taste brigade’ of broadcasting to stop them upsetting us too much), we take refuge in `reality TV’ and the bromides of Big Brother.

“Our reach has exceeded our grasp. Something is seriously out of joint. We are left with no heroes, but only celebrities. We need a survival strategy, but seem to lack enough of what it takes to put one together: understanding, courage, compassion, common sense, connectedness, care for each other, steadiness under fire and memory. 

“What follows is a journey through the new world disorder Better fasten your seat belts. This could be a rough ride.”

 

 

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*THROUGH GATES OF FIRE – A journey into World Disorder, by Martin Bell, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003


School cadet forces: ambush or support?

October 7, 2017

 Felicity Arbuthnot draws attention to an article by Rhianna Louis, the education and outreach officer at ForcesWatch summarised below.

A report commissioned by Veterans For Peace UK draws on veterans’ testimony and around 200 studies from the last half-century to explore the effects of army employment on soldiers, particularly their initial training.

It finds that young people with experiences of childhood adversity, who exhibit violent behaviour at a young age, or have mental health problems, are not for the most part “rescued” by a military career. They are likely to leave early and face unemployment due to a lack of transferable qualifications after leaving education to enlist.

Their early difficulties leave them more susceptible to mental health problems triggered by training and in service. They don’t need a cadet force to mould them into controlled, obedient and patriotic young citizens but proper and sustained mental health support in a supportive learning environment.

However, another interim report on the social impact of cadet forces, recently published by the University of Northampton, said that cadet units can improve attendance and educational achievement, supporting children in ways that schools cannot. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon praised the report while announcing 31 new cadet units in state schools. It extols the benefits offered by cadets for socio-economically disadvantaged and emotionally troubled young people — in fact military service can be highly damaging to such youngsters.

The University of Northampton report, and Fallon’s dream of cadet units blossoming up and down the country, herald the cadet forces as the solution to struggling children, mixing child development aims with defence aims such as savings, recruitment and PR for the armed forces.

The cadet expansion programme is funded by part of nearly £90 million that has gone into military programmes in education since 2012

By contrast, non-military services and facilities for young people have been decimated in recent years, and education is facing a funding crisis. Teaching and support staff posts are being cut, along with Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision and spending on books and equipment. Funding for education of 16-19 year olds has been devastated and should be restored.

While the cadet forces offer benefits to many young people, so would any well-funded youth programme with excellent resources

Outside the classroom, the picture is equally bleak. Youth clubs have been so badly hit that they are closing up and down the country and may become once more reliant on Dickensian philanthro-capitalism. Children’s mental health services have also faced cuts, with funding falling by nearly £50m between 2010 and 2015.

Two years ago Tim Bevan, producer of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and co-founder of Working Title Films, commented on Nicky Morgan harking back to the days of national service, by investing millions in funding for military boot camp type projects to instill discipline and build “character, resilience and grit” in young people.

The funding was going to organisations such as Commando Joe’s, Challenger Troop and Skillforce. Tim thinks that the lure of additional funding into cash strapped schools masks the intention to raise a public willing to pay for the military, make recruitment easier in to armed forces and stifle opposition to unpopular wars and asks:

“What will be the effect of this approach on children, already identified as disadvantaged? What will they learn? To follow rules without question, to do as they are told and not think for themselves, to respond to aggression and to conform through fear. How will this develop the creative, problem solving, free-thinking, decision makers of the future?” And ends:

“We do not need a public service focussed on war to turn around the lives of disadvantaged young people. Those facing hardship need meaningful opportunities to secure employment, not to develop resilience to the pain and frustration of inequality”.

 

 

 

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