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JPI PeaceTalk
Subject JPI PeaceTalk with Jeffrey FELTMAN, Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
Author JPI  (admin)
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2018-12-06 오후 2:00:35

 

 

Q1. Could you briefly introduce yourself to JejuTube viewers?

 

My name is Jeffrey Feltman and it’s an honor for me to be here at Jeju Forum. It's my first time to participate in this important event. I'm currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, but until April I had been the undersecretary general for political affairs at the United Nations which is sort of the senior foreign policy advisor to the Secretary General on peace and security matters. In that capacity, I had the honor and the responsibility to visit Pyongyang in early December for the first high-level political discussions between officials from the DPRK and the United Nations in nearly eight years. And so, it's been a great privilege for me to be here at the Jeju Forum to compare notes on both my impressions from that trip as well as developments since then.

 

Q2. After the inter-Korean and the US-North Korea Summits, there are both anticipations and worries for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. Regardless of the outcomes of the summits, the process of leading North Korea to the path of ‘complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of its accumulated nuclear assets will not be smooth sailing. After the Summits, working level talks for denuclearization could encounter a dead end due to expected or unexpected circumstances. What do you think is the most important strategy to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, lower nuclear tensions in Northeast Asia as well as the world, and lay foundation to construct a regional peace regime?

 


I think it's worth keeping in mind the context in which the current developments have been taking place, if we remember, only six or seven months ago, how tense the world was, how dangerous the situation was on the Korean Peninsula with implications for the region and far beyond. I think about the fact that before the PyeongChang Olympics, before President Moon Jae-in's summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, there had been no military-to-military channels.  There had been no hotline that was operational. Between Washington and Pyongyang, there was a war of words and the channels of communication, the so-called New York channel, were completely closed. There was a real risk of war, the development of the North Korean missile technology, its nuclear program, and risks plunging this region into war. The lack of any type of channels of communication meant anything, any incident that could have taken place in the West sea across the DMC could have quickly escalated into an unintentional war. So as difficult as these issues are as complicated as the question of denuclearization is and it is. I think we need to keep in mind that now people are talking about using diplomacy to resolve the issues rather than moving toward a military solution. I think this is inherently something positive. This is not to underestimate the challenges.

There has been a lot of criticism, for example, of the Singapore statement that it doesn't use the terms, you know, CVID. It doesn't talk about the complete, verifiable, irreversible destruction of the DPRK nuclear program which has been the international standard. I'm less concerned myself about the terminology as long as the goal is the same, as long as the goal is the peace and security in Northeast Asia that has to include what would in essence be complete denuclearization of the DPRK. But there's a negotiating history here. We've seen the 1991-92 inter-Korean joint declaration. There was the agreed framework with the United States. There was the six-party talks. There was the Leap Day Agreement with the Obama administration. All of these promised denuclearization in return for certain things, but none of them worked. So to get to your question, I think what's important now is for the two sides to really roll up their sleeves and work to make sure that they have a common understanding of what the goal is, to make sure that they are working to overcome any potential misunderstanding that led to the failure of these previous agreements to resolve the nuclear and peace and security issues. So it really is time for extensive diplomatic work to overcome the types of misunderstandings that led to the problems in the previous agreements. 

 


Q3. Building conditions for peace in the Korean peninsula have been in full swing since the inauguration of the Moon Jae-in administration. With North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics serving as the momentum for two Panmunjom inter-Korean Summits, North Korea-China Summit and US-North Korea Summit, the North has been pushing forward for negotiations with the US to exchange its denuclearization for regime security guarantee. Now appears to be a timely moment for the larger, more powerful neighbors – such as the US, China, Japan, and Russia - to put in a “concerted effort” in close coordination with South Korea in order to contribute to the denuclearization of North Korea and tension reduction on the Korean Peninsula. What do you think is the most important roles that they should play?

 


First, I would like to pay tribute to President Moon Jae-in's diplomacy that was in response to the New Year's address by Kim Jong-un that capitalized on the Republic of Korea’s hosting the PyeongChang Olympics. Because if you go back to that New Year's address by Chairman Kim Jong-un, it seems to me that he had made a decision at that point to try to warm up the relationship with Seoul to improve the relationship between Pyongyang and Seoul by opening up the channels of communication. But it wasn't clear in that New Year address that he was yet ready to try to change the tone of communications or try to change the working methods of dealing with the United States. I think that came about thanks to the diplomacy of President Moon Jae-in and his discussions with Kim Jong-un. So, we had a sequence of steps that took us to where we are now. But it's clear that to address the overall peace and security issues on the Korean Peninsula is so important for the whole region of Northeast Asia. They are important for the world. You need to go beyond Seoul-Pyongyang, you need to go beyond Pyongyang-Washington. Obviously the Seoul-Washington communications connections coordination continues and those are important. But Japan has interests because of missile range of North Korea. China obviously has key strategic national interests in peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and they have a certain relationship with Pyongyang. Seoul and Washington have somewhat different interests. They overlap, but they are different. And, it's not enough.  You cannot address the peace and security issue on the Korean Peninsula in Northeast Asia if you solely have an agreement between Pyongyang and Washington about the long-range missiles that are risks to the United States.

 

There is also a global concern with nuclear proliferation. The Security Council resolutions were passed. Repeated Security Council resolutions were passed unanimously, which means that the 15 countries have the responsibility for upholding peace and security around the globe, and that goes far beyond the permanent members that have voted unanimously in condemnation of Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons technology. So all of these groups have to play a role in endorsing an approach that will address what Pyongyang says are its peace and security concerns and the other concerns of Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Washington, and beyond. So, it's a bilateral issue, or inter-Korean issue. I should say it's an inter-Korean issue. It's a regional issue, it's a Washington-Pyongyang issue, but also a global issue because nuclear proliferation is something that concerns all of the members of the Security Council.

 


Q4. Korean peninsula is on the precipice of ‘thinking the unthinkable’ geopolitical game. In the game of pushing back against each other, many experts seem to be quite skeptical about the possibility that Trump and KIM Jung-un can resolve one of the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflicts. Some went so far as to say a best-case scenario would be the preservation of the status quo. But the goal is clear: denuclearization of Korean peninsula. No matter how tenuous a hope for peace may be, we need to seize this opportunity. Watching and analyzing how this geopolitical game unfolds will be our utmost concern. What is your assessment of the major achievements of the recent summit meetings? How do you evaluate the future prospects for the inter-Korean and US-DPRK relations not to mention China-DPRK relations?


To review what I've said earlier, seven months ago, it seemed as though the world was watching helplessly as the Korean peninsula was marching toward war. It looked as though there was going to be an inevitable war between Pyongyang and Washington that would affect the region in a devastating way. That appeared to be the way things were moving. So I think that what has changed is there is no longer such high tensions. There is no longer this sense of the inevitability of war. That means people can look at this problem and a real problem - peace and security in Northeast Asia - with cooler heads. Second, there is no longer a risk of an accidental war. When there were no communications between two Koreans, when there was no military-to-military ability to communicate between the forces across DMZ, there was a real risk of accidental war of something, something quickly going out of control. And, there was a risk that the United States would feel compelled to address a very real security crisis through military means, and the implication is that all of that right now is at least at a pause. Plus, North Korea which had made such remarkable progress in its missile technology in this nuclear program against the will of the world also has ceased testing and thus advancing its program. So I think that the various summits (and) the diplomacy that has taken place in 2018 have already put the two Koreas, put the region and the world in a far better place. It doesn't mean that the problem has been solved. What it means is that the problem has a higher potential of being solved through peaceful means than it just appeared possible just a few months ago.

 

Q5. Under the substantial progress of the denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula after the series of the summit meetings, many people assume that the multilateral security regime for East Asia is still an effective policy measure. What would be an effective way of constructing a multilateral security regime for Korea that includes super power countries such as the US, China, Japan, and Russia?

 


If you look at how Europe dealt with the aftermath of World War II, you see overlapping multiple institutions within Europe and also Transatlantic. You still have a remnant of the World War II in the Cold War on the Korean peninsula. Divided Korea is an anachronism in today's world, but it seems to me that Northeast Asia, and Asia more broadly, should take a lesson from the post-World War II experience of Europe and the Transatlantic alliances in building a series of political, economic and security architecture, elements of architecture that work in tandem to address the various political, economic and security needs of the countries that would be involved. If you look at the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe based in Vienna, it's not a treaty. It's an agreement among countries. It operates by consensus but it's a way to share information to work together to address shared concerns. That sort of architecture, that exists in Europe and, to some extent, the Transatlantic community more broadly, doesn't yet really exist in Asia. And I would hope that successful addressing of the nuclear threat of the DPRK would obviously move into replacing the armistice agreement with the peace agreement that requires several states to join so that the nuclear threat be dealt with. But if you go beyond simply looking at the Korean peninsula, how do you build an architecture for the whole region - and that may, in fact, be something that could go in parallel with addressing with the nuclear threat, given the fact that Pyongyang always says that its nuclear program is because of deterrence, because of fear that the United States and others are trying to destroy the system. So perhaps there is a way to use the development of a regional political economic and security architecture in tandem with addressing the nuclear threat to be mutually reinforced.

 


Q6. The confrontation between two major powers, the US and China, has aggravated regional peace and security. How do you evaluate the current status of the US-China relationship and its influence in Asia, in particular in terms of the evolving of China’s “Belt and Road Initiatives” and US-proposed “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy?

 


I think we all should be concerned about the deterioration in the relationship between Beijing and Washington certainly on the trade side. When you have these two huge economies that are taking retaliatory measures against each other, I think that there's going to be a fallout. That's going to affect other countries that have been able to rely on what we're always assumed to be traditionally open borders. And I think the Republic of Korea is one example, the country that has built its economic success on the assumption that open markets would stay open. And I'm not sure we can accept that as a given anymore, given what's emanating from Washington, I mean, given the Washington-Beijing trade dispute.


But there also has been a more positive, a very pragmatic approach between Washington and Beijing when it comes to security issue on the Korean peninsula. The Security Council resolutions that were passed unanimously about the condemning the North Korean nuclear program imposing sanctions, and they were passed unanimously because Washington and Beijing coordinated their positions to make sure that they stayed in sync on what needed to happen with these responses to the missile launches and nuclear testing by Pyongyang. Now you see the US Defense Secretary Mattis has been in Beijing in an attempt to also address some of the larger security issues pragmatically. So, despite the fact that there's, without question, a very serious problem in terms of trade between Washington and Beijing, I see the examples where both capitals are trying to separate that very real dispute from a much more pragmatic and cooperative approach when it comes to security on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in Asia.

 


Q7. How will multilateral talks such as the Jeju Forum contribute to promoting peace better? What direction do you think the Jeju Forum should take in the future?



Yes, I said this is the first time I've had the privilege and honor to come to the Jeju Forum. And it's an incredibly important venue to bring two people together beyond just the government officials, beyond the diplomats to include civil society, to include past officials with experience, to include business communities to really talk in a frank and candid way, in a creative way about how to address what are extremely complicated issues. And the timing couldn't be better. You know serendipity. After this series of summits, most recently the Singapore summit, the Jeju Forum is the place where everyone can compare notes. How do we interpret what happened in Singapore and Panmunjom, how do we look at the three summits between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un, how do these fit together in a way to try to address what are very real concerns in a number of capitals? So I think I salute the organizers and sponsors of the Jeju Forum for giving us all the opportunity to come together in a fantastic environment to compare notes and to be able to offer some ideas on moving forward, since everyone knows that implementing the various communications is going to be a real challenge. I would hope in the future, given the change in the relation and inter-Korean relationship, that there would be officials here from Pyongyang as well to participate in these types of informal changes and I hope they would be prepared to engage in the informal give and take, candid way that I'd appreciate people using here in Jeju.

 

Q8. Any last words to JejuTube viewers?

 

You know there are a lot of skeptics about what's taken place over the past six or seven months, and given how complex these issues are, given the disappointing negotiation history since the inter-Korean talks of 1991 and moving forward, I think skepticism is understandable. In fact, skepticism was probably even healthy. But I don't want to see the skepticism turn into skeptics becomes spoilers. I think all of us should provide as much support as we can: intellectual support, political support behind the efforts that the various leaders are taking to address what has been decades’ worth of conflicts and risks to all the Korean people to the region and beyond.