With diplomats at their wits’ end coming up with solutions to defuse rising tensions in the Korea Peninsula, former House speaker Jose de Venecia has proposed a joint peace mission to convince Pyongyang to let go of its nuclear ambitions.
The unsolicited proposal from de Venecia is a timely and strategic one, as it seeks to expand the diplomatic effort to contain North Korea and its rogue leader, Kim Jong-Un.
The mission will be a “joint” effort as de Venecia wants both the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to nominate delegates, to negotiate “a peace that will hopefully endure in the Korean Peninsula.”
De Venecia’s proposal astutely seeks a careful balance between political and economic options to solve the nuclear crisis.
APEC’s 21 member-economies account for 60 percent of global gross domestic product and half of world trade flows.
The 10-nation Asean, meanwhile, is an emerging economic powerhouse that represents the world’s third-largest consumer market, with 630 million people.
The sizable influence of APEC and Asean members in the geopolitical and economic spheres should help convince Pyongyang that the benefits of shutting down its nuclear arsenal far outweigh the costs of a looming nuclear war.
Indeed, North Korea’s problem is primarily a socioeconomic one. North Koreans continue to reel from embargoes upon embargoes imposed by eight rounds of UN Security Council sanctions. Millions of North Koreans are suffering from chronic hunger, and Pyongyang is running out of options.
Recently, it was reported that North Koreans are resorting to “fake” meat to fill their hungry stomachs. The regular diet of rice or maize and kimchi or bean paste is also making citizens malnourished.
North Korea’s hunger crisis is, thus, as urgent as the nuclear standoff that continues to lend instability to East Asia.
There is a deal to be made with North Korea, one which APEC and Asean could help forge if US President Donald Trump fails to put his reputed deal-making prowess to good use.
APEC and Asean are having back-to-back meetings in Vietnam and the Philippines, respectively, beginning this weekend, and while East Asia and Pacific leaders are scheduled to talk about further economic cooperation, North Korea will surely be at the back of their minds.
De Venecia’s hope is for an eventual meeting of the two Koreas, with nominees from APEC and Asean in attendance. This should lead to an eventual “Asean Plus 4” configuration, with the addition of North Korea to the existing Asean Plus 3, or the 10 Asean members plus China, Japan and South Korea.
This should lay down the conditions for the two Koreas to consider a “unification” or “confederation,” according to de Venecia.
De Venecia’s optimism has historical basis. Once upon a time, he notes, there were two Germanies and two Vietnams.
“[B]ut unforeseen, unnegotiated geo-political circumstances eventually proved everyone wrong, resulting finally today in a strong, prosperous united Germany and a flourishing united Vietnam,” the former speaker points out.
Perhaps, President Rodrigo Duterte could bring up de Venecia’s proposal to his fellow APEC and Asean leaders.
It could very well start the process toward enduring peace in the region, one that will finally allow APEC and Asean to flourish.