At the press conference at the beginning of the Kazakhstan presidency of the Security Council for the month of January 2018, Kairat Umarov, the Kazakhstan Ambassador to the UN, said that the Security Council meeting on non-proliferation would provide a helpful alternative on how to deal with the problem on the Korean Peninsula. He was proposing that “trust and confidence building” would provide a basis to resolve such conflicts.
Presiding at the January 18 Security Council meeting on non-proliferation the President of Kazakhstan, Abdrakhmanov Nazarbayev presented a statement about his proposal for an alternative process to deal with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. He gave the example of his country which had owned what he said was the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal transitioning his country to a nuclear-free status voluntarily. President Nazarbayev called on other nations with nuclear weapons to follow his country’s example. In the process he proposed that “the way to counter the threat of nuclear weapons throughout the world is through trust.” He called for a “revival of political trust and systematic dialogue.” He described meeting with US President Donald Trump and discussing the issue, and offering “to engage in mediation and provide a platform for negotiations should the need arise among stakeholders.”
A part of his proposal was the call for the participation of the US, Russia and China in seeking a solution to the North Korean issues. He proposed that “We advocate that the five nuclear-weapon states grant security assurances to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a key prerequisite for establishing an atmosphere of trust for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.”
This was different from just calling for “trust” as a means for a solution. Considering that the US provides a nuclear umbrella to the Republic of Korea and Japan as part of its alliance with them in opposition to the DPRK, it is significant that the President of Kazakhstan recognized the need for guarantees to the DPRK that nuclear weapons will not be used against it.
The Kazakhstan president also recognized the need for the “great nuclear Powers” to lead by example in WMD reduction. However, he recognized the contradiction that will occur “if the great nuclear Powers state that they intend to maintain and strengthen their nuclear capacities and prevent others from acquiring the same.” He said, “I believe that that will backfire.”
It is rare but helpful that the need to reduce not increase or upgrade the capabilities of the nuclear powers was recognized.
These issues are important to understand as a basis for “trust”. But “trust” cannot replace actual efforts to downgrade the nuclear threat posed by the five nuclear powers which are the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
This concern was also recognized in the presentation by Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. He referred to a problem that he said occurred at the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which he characterized as “the misguided and dangerous trend prevailing at the time involving attempts to compel nuclear Powers to abandon their nuclear arsenals without accounting for their security interests or strategic realities.”
Lavrov explained that “the total eradication of nuclear weapons is possible only in a context of comprehensive, full disarmament, with equitable, equal and indivisible security for all, including those possessing nuclear weapons….” He referred to Russia and China’s proposals for a “road map aimed at reaching an exclusively peaceful settlement” of the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula.
Other proposals from the Security Council meeting included from Bolivia’s Ambassador Llorentty Soliz who pointed to “political dialogue” as the only way to achieve the denuclearization of the region.” Llorentty Soliz proposed the need for “the development of mutual confidence building measures.” And he complimented “the willingness shown by the Governments of the Republic of Korea and of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to begin negotiations in order to facilitate the attendance of a North Korean delegation in the upcoming Winter Olympics and the participation of both countries in the inaugural ceremony under the same flag.”
Among other comments was one from Sweden’s Ambassador Skoog who maintained: “…(S)anctions alone will not solve the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.” The Swedish Ambassador noted that “We welcome the developments on the peninsula, including the steps taken to reopen channels of communication, such as military to military dialogue. That is an important means to avoid misunderstanding and reduce tensions. We also welcome the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to participate in the Olympic Games. Those are positive developments. It is important to seize that window of opportunity and support all efforts that can lead to denuclearization and peaceful relations on the Korean peninsula.”
Cote d’Ivoire also welcomed the “thaw in the relations between the two Koreas….” Ambassador Tanoh-Boutchoue of Cote d’Ivoire proposed that “That thaw augurs well for the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. It should be welcomed and encouraged in order to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Ambassador Alemu of Ethiopia noted that “It is increasingly apparent that there is no other option but a peaceful and diplomatic path to resolving the crisis in the Korean peninsula….In that regard, we welcome the recent high-level intra-Korean talks and the agreement reached to ease military tensions, hold military-to-military talks and reopen the inter-Korean military hotline, which we hope will help to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula. We also welcome the agreement reached between the United States and the Republic of Korea to postpone their joint military exercises.”
China’s contribution to the meeting from Ambassador Wu Haitao was to encourage the resolution of “non-proliferation hotspot issues by political and diplomatic means.” He applauded the very recent positive changes that have emerged on the Korean Peninsula. “All parties should make a concerted effort to maintain the hard-won momentum of reduced tensions, create the conditions for relaunching dialogue and negotiations and return the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula to dialogue and negotiations,” he said.
China’s Representative also referred to the “suspension-for-suspension initiative and two-track approach as well as the road map jointly proposed by Russia and China” as “realistic and feasible” for “resolving the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula.”
While other issues were also raised at the meeting, it is significant to see how much support there was for the current inter-Korean dialogue that has taken place between the DPRK and the ROK.
Sometimes the UN serves as a venue where ideas and proposals for a more peaceful resolution of difficult tensions are proposed and discussed with some seriousness. If only it happened more often and a mechanisms for implementation were developed.
The quotes used in this article are from the transcript of the January 18, 2018 Security Council meeting S/PV.8160 at the UNSC website.
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