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JPI PeaceTalk
Subject JPI PeaceTalk with Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University
Author JPI  (admin)
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2019-08-09 오후 1:56:45


 

 


As foreign minister, Gareth Evans’s primary ambition was to demonstrate that Australia was a middle power—rather like South Korea—rather than a great power. He believes a whole range of issues demand the sort cooperative action that a middle power can champion, and North Korean denuclearization is certainly no exception. Evans said that Australian strategic thinkers generally do not believe that North Korea is going to be bludgeoned into submission by sanctions or threats or pressure. While Evans applauds President Trump for initiating the summits with North Korea, he does not think the negotiations are being conducted very well. He finds it fairly obvious that impossibly tough demands were being made of the North Koreans at the Hanoi Summit. On the other hand, Evans said that a step-by-step process combined with the right institutional structures such as a comprehensive peace agreement, a nuclear-weapons-free zone could lead to a successful cooperative solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.


 

 


Q1. You have served as Attorney-General and Senator, and as Foreign Minister, you are credited with greatly enhancing Australia's status in the international community.

As a Foreign Minister, what were your priorities?
What do you consider your biggest achievements?

 

My primary ambition was to demonstrate that Australia was a middle power—rather like Korea—rather than a great power, not able to impose our will on anybody through military or economic power. It could really do some important and influential things not just advancing our own security and economic interests, but also making the world and region a better place through pursuing global public goods issues or regional public goods issues, like the response to health pandemics or catastrophes or crises of one kind or another—the current issue of course is climate change, which demands cooperative action. A whole range of issues demand cooperative action. What we tried to do in the Australian government is in showing a government of our size could make a difference. I suppose the themes I’m particularly proud of is the role we played in the Cambodian peace process. I’m proud of the role we played in creating architecture for dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region—APEC. The role that we played in encouraging ASEAN in developing the ASEAN Regional Forum. And I’m proud of the role that we played in creating arms control mechanisms, particularly the chemical weapons prohibition treaty in Geneva after 20 years. I’m proud of the role we played in ending apartheid in South Africa. I think we did this through not exercising muscle but through exercising active, creative diplomacy and through stamina.

 

Q2. After leaving politics, you have been making a lot of efforts to make a nuclear-free world. Among many international issues, why have you become particularly interested in nuclear issues?

 

It goes back to when I was a student, when I was traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam and elsewhere around Asia. When I went to Hiroshima in 1964 to the Peace Park and the museum there. There was a granite stone, against which someone had been sitting when the bomb went off. What you saw was the shadow of that person when they had been sitting during the blast. In a strange kind of way, that made an indelible impression on me. I said to myself then, if I ever had any chance to rid the world of these indiscriminately inhumane weapons ever invented by mankind, I would like to do something. As foreign minister, I tried to initiate the Canberra Commission, to try and begin to change the way the world thought about these weapons—about the way they thought about their deterrent utility. Since then, I’ve been doing just that. It’s very frustrating, but the notion that there is something stabilizing about nuclear weapons—that guarantees peace and security—is crazy. Policymakers have to be frightened into the recognition about how much can go wrong. We’ve learned about how many times during the Cold War we were so close to accidental crisis. It was sheer luck. Even a relatively small-scale exchange—50 weapons or so—in a world where we know we have thousands of nuclear weapons can billions of casualties and destroy life on the planet as we know it.

 

Q3. You mentioned about the conditions for denuclearization and talked about mindset change. How does Australians think about the nuclear issues of North Korea?

 

Australians are increasingly aware, as is the rest of the world, of the issue of proliferation. I do think they’re complacent about the existing nuclear weapons and worry about new countries acquiring them. Everybody in Australia would strongly believe in the denuclearization objective. I don’t think there is much belief in Australia—at least among people following this debate—that North Korea is going to be bludgeoned into submission by sanctions or threats or pressure. I think the belief is that there has to be a sensible step-by-step negotiation in which trust is built and even though trust is built in confidence in someone like Kim Jong-un. Even though there’s all that obvious problem, my personal belief is that he does understand that North Koreans understand that to use nuclear weapons would be suicidal. There’s an emptiness and a posturing to the North Korean position—which I do think creates the condition for an effective negotiation. North Korea is very anxious about regime survival.

 

Q4. You once said that there is almost zero percent chance that North Korea will use nuclear weapons intentionally. Do you still believe it? If yes, why do you think so?



I do believe that—again, for the reason that they must know that any aggressive homicidal use of nuclear weapons would be suicidal. Some might say that North Koreans are “crazy,” but I think most of us don’t believe they’re crazy. They’re not irrational. In the contemporary age, as much as Kim Jong-un can try to stop the flow of information, it’s difficult to run a completely isolated, closed-off country. He knows that his population is becoming ever more aware of how poor they are compared to the South, compared to the rest of the world. He knows he needs to do something about that. I don’t think sanctions are going to force him into changing his position, but it requires a sensible approach on all sides. If the US sets the bar too high and makes impossible demands—to dismantle everything before sanctions will be relieved, for example—then negotiations are not going to happen. I cannot believe that there is any aggressive use of nuclear weapons that would make any sense from the North Korean perspective.

 


Q5. If you think there will be no substantial threat of nuclear attack, does it mean that North Korea does not necessarily need to denuclearize after all?

 


The problem about any country retaining nuclear weapons is what I’ve already said—not so much using them deliberately, but the risk of human error, of system error, of cyber sabotage or interruption leading to people making panicked decisions. It’s extraordinary how wrong things can go. The story I use from the Cold War: during the Cuban confrontation, we know now there were in fact nuclear weapons on Cuba and there were nuclear weapons on Soviet submarines in Cuban waters. But the US didn’t know that at the time—it was mounting a naval blockade of Cuba. The US was dropping depth charges, and Soviet protocol was that if it cut off communication, it was up to the vessel commander to launch a nuclear attack under the presumption that it we are now at war. The commander of the Russian submarine in question called in his deputy and the other senior officer, and by a 2-to-1 majority they decided not to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo. They’re desperately dangerous. If we can stop North Korea, that’s a very important objective. The worst thing that could happen is the start of the proliferation race.

 

Q6. How do you evaluate the efforts of the Trump administration and the Moon government to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue?



I do in fact applaud President Trump for initiating the summits. I don’t think he really understood really well the issues. I don’t think he was driven by any sense of moral outrage or determination to rid the world of nuclear weapons like President Obama was. I think he was totally narcissistic—he thought he could do something through his own brilliance and charm to accomplish it. But whatever his motives, it was the right thing to do to explore the possibility of a negotiated solution, which the Obama administration failed to do. They sat on their hands calling it “strategic patience,” which just saw North Korea going ahead and building its nuclear capability. But with people like John Bolton, who is the least diplomatic diplomat I’ve ever met in my entire life, and Trump’s inability to behave in a consistent and rational fashion, I don’t think the negotiations are being conducted very well. It’s fairly obvious that impossibly tough demands were being made of the North Koreans at the Hanoi Summit. Maybe they were impossibly tough going the other way as well. But the only way you’re going to get a solution on something as tough as this is through step-by-step trust-building. Not every type of negotiation is like this. But with the Trump side at the moment, I have my doubts. If it’s true that every time something goes wrong on the North Korean side someone is executed that’s not a good situation for creative diplomacy. The underlying dynamics are obviously so demanding. Accompanying it with the right institutional structures—a comprehensive peace agreement, a nuclear-weapons-free zone (just guaranteeing Russia, China, US wouldn’t use them in this context)—if you build this and the confidence then the cooperative solution is there for the taking.

 

Q7. How do you evaluate the efforts of the Moon government then?
 What advice would you give to the Korean government?

 


I don’t think President Moon needs that advice. They know perfectly well the way this negotiation needs to be conducted. It is a step-by-step process. It’s identifying you do this, and we’ll do that. Then you remove the sanctions in return for positive moves on the other sides. We have lots of examples of the sophisticated removal of sanctions. If we follow what the South Korean government is saying, I think we’ll get there. I know that’s not universal in South Korea, particularly on the conservative side that says it’s all about pressure and concessions can’t be made. My very strong belief is that this has to be a trust-building process. I was around in the 1995-96 negotiations. Australia was a very small player in supplying fuel, and I saw that fall apart—not because North Korea was never going to agree, but because both sides, and in particular the Western side and the US, did not really deliver on its side of the deal. And now we have the example of the US walking away from the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. However difficult the other side may be, how will they ever be persuaded to trust the US that walks away?

 

Q8. What role can think tanks play for denuclearization or protection of human rights?

 


Think tanks are very important players in the contemporary world in doing research in a way that is sometimes beyond the capacity of governments, because they can lack imagination or get caught in particular groves or ruts. To think about new kinds of solutions. To generate debate and discussion. That doesn’t always happen inside governments. New thinking and effective advocacy are very important. Also, of course, think tanks can energize public opinion, and democratic governments are always looking to public opinion. Think tanks and NGOs can get out there and generate public debate. And also having big conferences like this, that can involve young people, to help over time mindset changes to help do things differently. The world is changing all around us all the time—the strategies that could world 30 years ago might not work anymore, so you have to be quick on your feet and quick in your mind to effectively analyze the world.