2018 Inter-korean summit live stream – politics page 4 sufficient velocity gas lighting urban dictionary


It is increasingly clear that Kim Jong-Un is far from a madman; rather he seems to have been a very savvy if utterly ruthless dictator who took multiple years to consolidate his rule, but has done so now to the point his position is unassailable. The inter-Korean summit also showed that he clearly knows how to play to a very different audience than the North Korean propaganda machine, being willing and able to humanize himself and even crack jokes at his expense. It’s possible that, having basically disposed of all possible internal opposition, and with a fine hand of cards thanks to successful ICBM and nuclear technology development, he’s ready to pivot himself toward some sort of broader accommodation with South Korea and the US. Perhaps he’s looking to a place in history, or just to try to bring North Korea’s economic development into a modern period, or maybe it’s all some canny long-term plan to secure regime survival.

It’s worth noting that the most serious threats to the Kim dynasty have tended to come from China. The original pro-Chinese faction was opposed to Kim il-Sung, and was purged before and again after the Korean War. Various pro-Chinese factions have cropped up again and again as internal security threats despite multiple purges, most notable apparently in 2013 when Jang Song-thaek was executed; allegedly because he had approached Beijing about a coup to bring a more moderate government into power under Kim Jong-nam, which the hardline reactionary clique in the Politburo (the since-purged Zhou Youngkang is singled out) thwarted by warning Kim Jong-un. The subsequent murder of Kim Jong-nam, despite the understanding that he was under Chinese protection, removed him from the board and eliminated the possibility of a Chinese-backed usurpation. Granted the US has threatened regime change as well due to ongoing hostilities, and an American invasion is a graver threat, but it’s also far less likely than a Chinese backed coup d’etat at least since Clinton rejected that option in 1994.

Of course that’s all speculation. It’s still not clear what Kim’s long-term agenda is. One can hope that it truly is for a peace treaty, the calming of tensions with the West, the opening of the North Korean economy, and even a measure of security against the PRC. And the world has gone crazy enough that Kim Jon-un, Moon Jae-in, and Donald Trump being awarded the Noble Peace Prize is now plausible.

Still. No matter how personable and charming Kim tries to present himself, no matter if he truly is pivoting toward Korean unification and a Western orientation to break out of dependence on China, it should be remembered that he is the unquestionable dictator of the bloodiest and most repressive regime on Earth. One hopes that Americans and South Koreans keep that in mind even as we proceed to make peace, and will not fall under any sort of spell- though one should equally hope that hubris and pride do not keep the US from making an agreement to end a strategic crisis that has no other positive outcome.

In a remarkable 6-7 September 2017 meeting that passed almost unnoticed in the Western and Japanese media, 63 the two Koreas (South and North), Japan, Russia and China met at Vladivostok under the auspices of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), a relatively new (established in 2015) Russian initiative to promote the development of its Eastern zone. The five states (absent only the United States) of the Beijing Six Party Conference proceeded in low key, consensual mode, to endorse (or in the case of North Korea at least “not oppose”) what has been called the Putin plan. 64 It dealt essentially with economic cooperation, railways and pipelines, but its implications are far from mundane. 65

The Vladivostok parties looked to open multiple lines of cooperation and communication across North Korea, extending Siberian oil and gas pipelines to the two Koreas and Japan and opening railways and ports linking them across Siberia to China, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. South Korea’s President Moon projected his understanding of this within the frame of what he called “Northeast Asia-plus,” which involved construction of “nine bridges of cooperation” (gas, railroads, ports, electricity, a northern sea route, shipbuilding, jobs, agriculture, and fisheries), 66 embedding the Korean peninsula in the frame of the Russian and Chinese-led BRICS, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Shanghai Cooperation Organiziation (SCO) organizations, extending and consolidating those vast, China- and Russia-centred geo-political and economic groupings. Though billed as “economic,” and having no explicit “security” element, the Vladivostok conference was nevertheless one that would go a long way towards meeting North Korea’s security concerns and making redundant its nuclear and missile programs. Under it, the Beijing Six Party Talks formula of 2003-8 would become “Five Plus One,” with the United States reduced to non-participant “observer.” Unstated, but plainly crucial, North Korea would accept the security guarantee of the five (Japan included), refrain from any further nuclear or missile testing, shelve (“freeze”) its existing programs and gain its longed for “normalization” in the form of incorporation in regional groupings, the lifting of sanctions and normalized relations with its neighbour states, without surrender.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this Vladivostok agenda is the participation of the Japanese Prime Minister Abe and his Foreign Minister Kono Taro. The Abe government had till then matched Trump in uncompromising hostility to North Korea, and had just weeks earlier formally agreed with the US that CVID, North Korean submission, was the only way forward. Yet they appear to have responded positively to the Putin plan, which suggested that a diplomatic “Plan B” might be under active consideration in Tokyo, and that Vladivostok might mark a first step towards a comprehensive, long overdue, post-Cold War re-think of regional relationships. The Moon-Putin Plan held the potential not only for resolving the North Korea problem, sidelining the US, but also for transforming Japan-Russia and Japan-China relations. It could be expected to lead in due course to diplomatic recognition and a resolution of the complaints of the parties, completing the Japan-North Korean reconciliation process that was begun but then suspended under Prime Minister Koizumi (in 2002).

The challenge was greatest for Japan, calling for it to re-negotiate its relationship with the US away from clientelism towards an equal, friendly bilateral relationship, gradually liquidating US military bases and having East China Sea neighbour countries construct their relationships afresh, independently, North (and South) Korea would become points of Japanese engagement with the burgeoning regional development groupings, steps in the path of regional cooperation and community building. It was an unlikely agenda for a Prime Minister as apparently dedicated to Japan’s role as US “client state” as Abe, but Japanese reports suggest that Abe was seriously considering taking an initiative (reversing his stance to date) along the lines of this Putin or Moon-Putin plan), 67 but that US pressure was being brought to bear to put the kibosh on any such radical shift. 68