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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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.

 

 

 

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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”.

 

 

 

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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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Jeremy Corbyn prescribes a security and foreign policy with integrity and human rights at its core

July 25, 2017

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Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.

In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, added emphasis and links.

In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.

Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.

My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.

Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.

This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.

Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.

No more hand holding with Donald Trump.

The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.

Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.

I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.

A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain

A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.

Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security

I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems 

Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.

I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.

And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.

Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.

There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.

A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.

There is a clear choice at the next election

Do  we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.

See the video here: Chatham House speech and/or read the full text with more on Syria, arms exports and nuclear weapons downloaded from The Spectator.

 

 

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As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

June 7, 2017

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

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