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?

 

 

 

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”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.”

 

 

 

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Peaceful resistance

October 24, 2017

 Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store has withdrawn Israeli settlement products

The American Herald Tribune reports that earlier this month, the hundred year old store was scheduled to host an event featuring Israeli wines, including wines made in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen land – see United Nations’ reaffirmation in 2016. After Japanese civil society raised concerns, Mitsukoshi shortened the event and removed all wines which Palestine Forum Japan activists indicated were made in Israeli settlements. A spokesperson for Japan’s Palestine Forum said:

“We warmly welcome this principled decision by Mitsukoshi department store to pull products made in illegal Israeli settlements from its shelves. By refusing to sell these products, the store is complying with international law and Japanese foreign policy. It is also respecting human rights and advancing justice and peace.

“Mitsukoshi’s action serves as a model to other Japanese companies trading with those in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land. Japanese companies must immediately end their complicity in Israeli violations of human rights by stopping all trade and cooperation with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid, or increasingly face both reputational damage and financial losses”.

Simulation of an Israeli checkpoint outside Muji store

The Jerusalem Post recalls that the first protest of this kind was held in 2010, when civil organisations in Japan, including the Palestine Forum Japan, campaigned for seven months against the plan of Muji, a Japanese retail chain, to open stores in Israel – a plan which was eventually cancelled.

Last year the Israeli embassy in Japan had been planning to hold an Israel Wine Seminar at the Osaka Office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Some of the Israeli wineries attending were located in or used grapes from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank or the Golan Heights.

Palestine Forum Japan sent a fax to JETRO about providing their facilities for the promotion of illegal settlement businesses and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry informed Palestine Forum Japan that the Ministry had advised JETRO of the significant legal and moral risks associated with promoting illegal settlement businesses as outlined by the United Nations Human Rights Council. JETRO staff called Palestine Forum Japan and informed them that they would be withdrawing from the event which would not be going ahead at JETRO’s facilities.

In July 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a warning on its website, advising that “settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are in violation of international law, and one must be aware of the financial, reputational and legal risks when involved with economic activities in these areas.”

In September the Boycott, divestment and sanctions website reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was beginning to send letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Japanese BDS activists are calling on the Japanese government to implement sanctions against Israel until the military occupation is ended, Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights and Palestinian refugees are permitted to return to their homes and their land.

 

 

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Will Japan be ‘reset”, maintaining the pacifist principles enshrined in its constitution?

September 29, 2017

Following Shinzo Abe’s dissolution of the Japanese parliament for a snap election on October 22, Seiji Maehara, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, announced to his MPs that he would not field any candidates. He encouraged them to apply instead to run for a new party established by the governor of Tokyo only two days ago.

Tokyo’s governor,  Yuriko Koike, has announced the formation of the Party of Hope (Kibo no To) to contest the election She  laid out her party’s vision: to “reset” Japan, operating free of the interests of the political establishment and maintaining its pacifist principles, which are enshrined in its constitution.

Maehara’s proposal to shift allegiance to Koike’s movement was unanimously approved at a general meeting of DP MPs the same day. Under the plan, all DP candidates for the general election have been asked to abandon party membership and apply to join the official ticket of Kibo no To.

“I made this proposal after thinking about what would realize a change in power again,” Maehara told DP MPs during the meeting.  According to Maehara’s plan, the DP will give “full support” to Koike’s party in election campaigns, including financial support for former DP members running on the Kibo no To ticket.

During a TV interview on Wednesday, Koike said her party will choose applicants from the DP after close consideration of their views on constitutional revision and security issues.

 

 

 

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The overriding moral imperative: to avoid war

August 20, 2017

In the Financial Times recently Dr Jenny Clegg wrote: “The overriding moral imperative has to be to avoid war. The preservation of the international multilateral system requires it”.

She added, “Britain is in a position to exercise some influence here . . . At the moment, other world leaders are calling for calm, with German chancellor Angela Merkel saying clearly that she sees no military solution to the conflict, but we hear nothing from UK prime minister Theresa May”.

Dr Clegg points out that Russia and China have called for North Korea to put its nuclear and missile programmes on hold, while the US and South Korea cease their joint military exercises. The aim is to create an atmosphere more conducive to the resumption of the six-party talks, in line once again with the latest UN resolution.

Two days later, on August 17th, Brian Eno, Bruce Kent, Mark Rylance, Emma Dent Coad and Michael Rosen were among the signatories to a letter calling for Theresa May to exert diplomatic pressure on Donald Trump to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last November, RAF Mildenhall announced that the Royal Air Force took part for the first time in military exercises on the Korean peninsula alongside the US and South Korean military.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF chief of air staff; Lt. Gen. Won, In-Choul, the South Korean Air Force Operations Command commander; and Lt. Gen Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, participated in a media event for Invincible Shield at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2016

The civilised echo Dr Clegg’s call: “Will Theresa May now take the step to support the “freeze for freeze” by ruling out committing any armed forces, including for joint exercises, in the region?”

Dr Jenny Clegg (Chorlton, Manchester, UK) is a senior lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She first visited China in the 1970s and has followed developments there closely ever since. Her published work includes ‘China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world’ (Pluto Press, 2009), and ‘Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth’ (Trentham Books, 1994). She has produced a number of publications on China’s rural reforms as well as foreign relations.

 

 

 

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The Business Plan for Peace: Making Possible a World Without War”: Dr Scilla Elworthy

August 16, 2017

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2nd October, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL: 7.00 pm for 7.45 – 9.45

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Dr Philip Webber (chair), on behalf of the Martin RyleTrust, has given early notice of the second lecture in its annual series, presented jointly with Conway Hall Ethical Society, to be given this year by Dr Scilla Elworthy.

In 1982 Dr Elworthy founded the highly respected Oxford Research Group. Among her many other achievements, she set up Peace Direct, co-founded Rising Women Rising World, and has written numerous books on peace and related subjects. She is a member of the World Future Council and an advisor to ‘The Elders’. Dr Elworthy will draw on research for her forthcoming book to explore the forces that drive armed conflict and by contrast show what is already effective in building peace at both local and international levels.

She will detail a fully costed Business Plan for Peace. Finally she will reveal the impact that ordinary people can have in making a peaceful world possible, and how they can do it.

The Martin Ryle Lecture series is dedicated to maintaining Martin Ryle’s legacy in science, justice and peace. Sir Martin Ryle (1918-1984), FRS, Astronomer Royal, Nobel Laureate, was a physicist and radio astronomer, who played an important part in the development and use of radar, working mainly on countermeasures. From the mid-70s his concerns about the nuclear arms race and the misuse of science came to the fore. Towards the Nuclear Holocaust was published by the Menard Press in 1981. It combines factual information, analysis of the social and political condition of the world and a passionate call for rectification of this incredible situation. Ryle considered that nuclear power was irredeemably connected with nuclear weapons, via the production of plutonium. He used his engineering skill to analyse, develop and promote wind power.

Those who arrive early often spend time in the Red Lion Square Gardens, featured in Bradshaw’s interesting historical survey of the area, with photographs of  two peacebuilders: Fenner Brockway (above) and Bertrand Russell.

Booking for this year’s lecture is now open.

Tickets are available at
https://conwayhall.org.uk/event/scilla-elworthy/

Phone: 020 7405 1818

Website: https://conwayhall.org.uk

 

 

 

 

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Indian boxer’s message of peace

August 7, 2017

A stand-off in a remote frontier region beside the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has become increasingly tense. At the heart of the dispute are different interpretations of where the “trijunction” – the point where the three countries’ borders meet – precisely lies. China argues its territory extends south to an area called Gamochen, while India says Chinese control ends at Batanga La, further to the north.

Avoiding escalation

To avoid escalation, frontline troops in the area do not generally carry weapons, and the Chinese and Indian troops reportedly clashed by “jostling” bumping chests, without punching or kicking, in order to force the other side backwards – see video (Hindi commentary).

The current standoff began on 16 June when a column of Chinese troops accompanied by construction vehicles and road-building equipment began moving south into what Bhutan considers its territory. Bhutan requested assistance from Delhi, which sent forces to resist the Chinese advance.

On Thursday, China demanded India immediately remove troops from the border, accusing it of building up troops and repairing roads along its side of the border next to the Indian state of Sikkim.

 

The BBC reports that Vijender Singh, a middleweight Indian boxer, beat China’s Zulpikar Maimaitiali on points on Saturday to retain his WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title and take his opponent’s WBO Oriental super belt. But he dedicated his win to “India-China friendship”.

After the unanimous verdict in Mumbai, Singh returned to the ring, taking the microphone and saying: “I don’t want this title. I will give it (and the belt) back to Zulpikar.” He added: “I don’t want tension on the border. It’s a message of peace. That’s important.”

 

 

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