Mapping Out a North Korean Peace Process

Mapping Out a North Korean Peace Process
Malaysian women peacekeepers of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz

By John Gruetzner

There are ultimately four critical components to a peace process:

The first component is to submit and then finalize a draft of a document acceptable to the original signatories that converts the armistice agreement signed on 27 July 1953 to a full and final peace agreement. An ideal target date for a peace treaty signing might be the 65th anniversary — 27 July 2018 — of the temporary peace being agreed to. The right language will require a team of talented wordsmiths but a peace treaty is the first plank in the foundation of perpetual peace.

The second is for Canada to lead a process that outlines clearly the staged economic benefits to the DPRK that will be granted if and when a peace treaty is signed and adhered to. A key concern of the DPRK government will be to develop its own economy at its own pace of reform in a way that brings increased prosperity to its people but also avoids reliance on South Korea and China. This is the big carrot waiting to be deployed after the stick of sanctions can logically be removed.

Canada must coordinate with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and key bilateral donors — including but not limited to China, Japan, and the European Union — to develop a group fund as well as bilateral programs linked to the terms of a demobilization timetable. These benefits offered must build on, but also surpass significantly in economic value to the North Korean economy, the confidence-building mechanisms originally developed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Center for Security Studies. DPRK’s economy is estimated to have a GDP in the ballpark of US$40 billion, based on a Central Intelligence Agency report.

As the sanctions are removed upon the signing of a peace treaty and demobilization framework, it will be fiscally feasible for the G-20 to deliver short-term economic benefits to the people of the DPRK via development assistance. What is needed to secure peace, finance demobilization, and start economic reform is a ten-year commitment to a substantial economic development fund that is enforced with legally binding financial commitments made now by all donors. North Korea must accept, via a consultative process, a series of economic and military reforms to qualify for this assistance.

The third and most critical component will be to develop a bridging mechanism to serve as a legal surrogate or mechanism to rebuild trust between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK, and also the United States and the DPRK. This might involve peacekeepers on both sides of the DMZ, confirmation of the DPRK’s sovereignty in the peace treaty, or alternative structures proposed by the DPRK that are acceptable to the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States. This will initially require shuttle diplomacy with the goal of the United States and the DPRK conducting direct talks and making mutual commitments to secure a staged reduction of military tension. Canada should offer to referee these talks.

The most critical and final component of the summit’s process should be to have the key regional players work with the United States to list their preconditions for a settlement, tasking the United States with negotiating the final timetable for demobilization of some conventional weapons, nuclear weapons, and ICBM programs.

Canada will likely have to convince the United States to accept that the DPRK will require a link between economic benefits and demobilization of its standing army. The United States must also recognize that North Korea will require time to unwind its nuclear program, both for internal political reasons and also as a failsafe as it mutually earns trust by its actions and learns to trust the world. Staged disarmament is also a rational request since a rapid demobilization of troops can create political and civil turmoil.

John Gruetzner is the Managing Director of Intercedent Limited. He is part of a team of 24 founders forming The China Policy Centre to be based in Ottawa.

See part 1 of this blog, “Canada Doubling Down on Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula.”

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