สุนทรพจน์/ถ้อยแถลง : ปาฐกถาพิเศษ โดย ศาสตราจารย์กันตธีร์ ศุภมงคล รัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงการต่างประเทศ ลำดับที่ 39 ณ การประชุมอาเซียนว่าด้วยความร่วมมือด้านการเมืองและความมั่นคงในภูมิภาคเอเชีย-แปซิฟิก Track 1.5 การประชุมสัมมนาเกี่ยวกับการทูตในเชิงป้องกัน วันที่ 1 กรกฎาคม 2558 ณ โรงแรมอนันตรา กรุงเทพฯ สุนทรพจน์/ถ้อยแถลง

สุนทรพจน์/ถ้อยแถลง : ปาฐกถาพิเศษ โดย ศาสตราจารย์กันตธีร์ ศุภมงคล รัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงการต่างประเทศ ลำดับที่ 39 ณ การประชุมอาเซียนว่าด้วยความร่วมมือด้านการเมืองและความมั่นคงในภูมิภาคเอเชีย-แปซิฟิก Track 1.5 การประชุมสัมมนาเกี่ยวกับการทูตในเชิงป้องกัน วันที่ 1 กรกฎาคม 2558 ณ โรงแรมอนันตรา กรุงเทพฯ

Your Excellency Reuben Levermore, Ambassador of New Zealand to Thailand,

Co-Chairs, 

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is my pleasure to be here with you this morning.  As a person who has lived in two worlds, the world of practitioners and the world of academics, I know how important it is for the two worlds to interact and share thoughts and experiences.  I also know how hard it is for the two worlds to interact.  While teaching diplomacy at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), my colleagues would often express their frustrations at their inability to get their messages through to policy makers.  We don’t have that problem here in this symposium. 

The ASEAN Regional Forum, or the ARF, has reached a stage in which it must graduate from just building confidence among its participants to concrete preventive diplomacy.  The ARF is now at a special age of 21 years old.  I attended the inaugural meeting of the ARF on 25 July 1994, here in Bangkok at the Shangri-La Hotel.  It was a brand new hotel then, but it is getting old now.  The ARF had done some good PR work then, which I thought was a half success.  They managed to get the general public in Bangkok to be aware of the name ARF.  I remember many of my friends asking me who would win at the ARF.  They thought it was a sports event, like SEA Games or regional Olympics. 

1994 was when the ARF began its work on Confidence-Building Measures.  It became the first security forum to include the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, together with China, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and 21 other countries, making a total of 27.  Now, 21 years later, it is time for the ARF to engage in concrete Preventive Diplomacy.

 have been asked to share with you this morning, my own story, my own experience, on preventive diplomacy and my engagement with a country commonly known to the world as the Hermit Kingdom, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK or North Korea. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The importance of ‘preventive diplomacy’ was recognized at the United Nations more than fifty years ago, when Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold emphasized the need for the UN to take diplomatic actions to prevent or mitigate the spread of armed conflicts.  The reason behind his idea was to keep local conflicts from being entangled in superpower rivalry.  The practical application of this concept, however, was limited as a result of the Cold War.

The United Nations tended to pay much attention on how to end international conflicts. When I was asked to focus on the United Nations back in 1985, I did not see any reference to preventive diplomacy in UN discussions.

Then came a fateful day for me back in 1985.  Thailand was beginning its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.  I was just a junior foreign ministry official, freshly graduated from university.  After only a few weeks at work, the day that I shall never forget came. 

On that day, I arrived at work with a high fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit.  I stayed at work for only half an hour and had to rush home to bed.  An hour later, my boss called me and said that the draft United Nations Security Council speech for the then foreign minister of Thailand, His Excellency Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila, had been prepared by several offices.  It covered important issues around the world, but it contained no concrete proposal from Thailand.  He said, “Kantathi, I know that you are ill today, but I must ask you to come up with Thailand’s proposal for the United Nations, to be included in the foreign minister’s speech, by this afternoon.”  In effect, I was asked to postpone my illness for a few hours, come up with Thailand’s proposal for the United Nations, and then go back to being ill again for the rest of the week.  What a challenge for me.

I thought about being ill and being given this urgent challenge to write.  It wasn’t a good feeling.  I was nervous and I felt that my fever had gone up by a couple of degrees. 

I thought about how I could have prevented my illness. That could have been a great thing to have done. I sat up on my bed and thought of  “preventive medicine” and how I wished I could have used it a few days earlier, had I been aware of the risks. I then thought of international conflicts and how the United Nations should also focus more attention on prevention.  I decided to call it “preventive diplomacy.” I thought of the need for the United Nations Secretary-General to use “preventive diplomacy” to prevent potential problems from becoming a threat to the international system. 

From the term “preventive medicine” for my own situation, I wrote in the draft speech, a proposal for the United Nations Secretary-General to engage in “Preventive Diplomacy” and to create an “Early Warning System” to enable him to get timely information on potential problems around the world.  I also included in that same speech, a proposal for the establishment of a “New World Order of Peace and Justice”.  After this exercise, I went back to being ill for several days.

I was pleased to see that my sick bed proposal became Thailand’s proposal at the United Nations, with much positive international attention.  The Thai Foreign Ministry received calls from so many embassies that week, including the Embassy of the United States of America and the Embassy of the Union of the Soviets Socialist Republics, asking for more details on Preventive Diplomacy and Early Warning System.  All calls were directly to me, and I came up with more details as I responded to the calls. 

I was pleased to see that in 1986, a year after the Thai speech was delivered, the United Nations created a new entity called “the Office for Research and the Collection of Information”, with a specific mandate of providing the United Nations Secretary-General with an “Early Warning System, to enable the UN to engage in a timely “preventive diplomacy”.

The term preventive diplomacy was revived and further elaborated in Secretary-General Brutos Brutos-Ghali’s Report called ‘An Agenda for Peace’ back in 1992 a few years later.

With the end of the Cold War, the international community had a renewed conviction that the UN would be capable of preventing and resolving conflicts, as well as preserving international peace and security. 

In order to realize this goal, Brutos-Ghali recommended that the UN should ‘seek to identify in the earliest possible stage, situations that could produce conflict and try through diplomacy to remove the source of danger before violence results’.          

He broke down the concept into four components: fact-finding, confidence-building, early warning and preventive deployment.

Partnership with, and concerted efforts from relevant regional organizations were emphasized. ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific countries also had their deliberations on what preventive diplomacy should be and how it should be applied. 

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

In many ways, ASEAN itself is a successful regional experiment in preventive diplomacy. You would notice that there has been no major armed conflict occurring between ASEAN Member States since ASEAN was established in 1967.  Our Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia also contributed to preventive diplomacy. Renewed hope for the successful use of preventive diplomacy came with the launching of the ARF in 1994.

Throughout the past 20 years, the application of preventive diplomacy, including confidence-building measures, has contributed to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.  Preventive diplomacy came in different shapes and forms and was executed by various actors.

Some ASEAN Member States have facilitated the peace process involving the Philippine Government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), for example. Malaysia and Thailand put their differences aside and developed the 7,000 sq.km. Joint Development Area (JDA) in the Gulf of Thailand.

ASEAN, as a regional organization, has also provided platforms for key players in the region to engage with one another.  We call this our regional architecture.  It consists of ASEAN meetings, ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Plus Three,  the ARF and the East Asia Summit or the EAS.

ASEAN is rather special.  It consists of small and medium sized countries, enjoying good relations with all countries around the world.  ASEAN is a friend to all countries and an enemy to none.  ASEAN is therefore in a unique position to host meetings between friends as well as between antagonists.

People have sometimes criticized ASEAN for being only a talk shop.  But diplomacy is talking.  Talking leads to confidence building.  Talking could also lead to preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution.  In our diplomatic circle, we are well aware that it is better to talk than to shoot or to bomb.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,  

I have also been asked to share with you today, how I cultivated a relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Hermit Kingdom.  I am pleased to share some parts of this true story with you now.

I started out by using my own confidence-building measures.  I used my personal touch in human-to-human relationships.  I wanted to first understand how the North Koreans saw the world, their perception of the intentions of the key international players, especially their perception of the United States’ behavior towards them.  Here, the psychological term, “perception” became very important.  I understood to a good degree how the United States perceived the North Koreans.  I wanted to understand better how Pyongyang perceived the United States and the world.

I felt that Thailand was in a unique position to play a constructive role regarding the situation in the Korean Peninsula.  Thailand had close relations with the U.S, as well as with the Republic of Korea.  Thailand’s diplomatic relations with the DPRK was established back in 1975.

My confidence-building measures with the DPRK could be followed up by preventive diplomacy or conflict resolution diplomacy, if opportunities came up.  I understood that my personal touch became a very important element in this undertaking.  To a substantial degree, international relations, as you know, came down to relations between humans holding certain official roles.

When I became Foreign Minister, I built strong relationships with my counterparts around the world.  In the case of the Korean Peninsula, I built good relationships with all my counterparts from countries engaging in the Six Party Talks.

When I was preparing for my first trip to the DPRK back in 2004, the DPRK ambassador in Bangkok called me several times, to ask about the gifts I would be taking to Pyongyang. 

I told the ambassador about my gift for the Dear Leader then Kim Jong Il.  The ambassador asked me to be sure to bring another gift, a more valuable one, for President Kim Il Sung, the father. This was rather an unusual request, since President Kim Il Sung had passed away back in July of 1994. The ambassador explained that Kim Il Sung had been given the position of “President for Eternity” and therefore, he remained president and continued to receive gifts, in spite of his death ten years earlier.  That is why there would only be one president of the DPRK forever.  You would notice that the Supreme Leader today, Kim Jong-un, is not president.  His late father, Kim Jong-il, was also not president.

On my arrival in Pyongyang, I was greeted by senior DPRK officials even before I stepped off the plane.  After a few words of welcome to me, one official asked me if I could give him the gifts right away.  He was very pleased, displaying a broad smile, when my assistants gave him the two gifts for his leaders before I got into the waiting car.  

We paid our respect to the Eternal President and were invited to enter a large room afterwards where all the gifts to DPRK leaders from around the world were on display.  Since there were so many gifts from around the world, I was told that if I were to spend a minute looking at a gift, it would take me two and a half years to see all the gifts located throughout the country. As we spent the next couple of hours looking at the gifts, I noticed that my two gifts from the airport were already on display.

My meetings with senior DPRK officials were proper and formal.  I had a good meeting with the President of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Jong-nam, discussing mostly bilateral issues. Then I met with Choe Thae-bok, Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly and Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. 

My meeting with Choe Thae-bok started out very formal, until I succeeded in breaking the ice.  I had noticed in his CV that he had studied in the German Democratic Republic.  So I decided to speak some German, since I had spent some time during teenage years in the Federal Republic of Germany.  I spoke to him in German.  He responded with a surprised look, a big smile and the meeting became relaxed, right away.  It was interesting that the German language was facilitating Thailand’s relations with the DPRK.

I invited Choe Thae-bok to dinner in return for his hosting a dinner for us.  His assistants informed my assistants that it was not their tradition to accept a dinner invitation from visitors, and that Choe Thae-bok would be out of town anyway.  Words came later though that Choe Thae-bok had enjoyed meeting with me very much, and that he would break tradition and attend my dinner, but only for half an hour, because of his very busy schedule.

We had a good dinner.  I mixed in casual conversations with some more serious questions.  Here were some of the questions and answers.

(Question) What lessons did the DPRK learn from the US invasion and occupation of Iraq?

(Answer)  Iraq was invaded because the US thought Iraq was weak, and had no weapons of mass destruction.  Before the invasion, the US had called Iraq an Axis of Evil.  The US had also called the DPRK an Axis of Evil.  Therefore, the only way to avoid US invasion would be to show the US that the DPRK was strong, and in possession of nuclear weapons.

(Question) There were reports that the US was planning to decrease its military presence in South Korea.  Would the DPRK want to see a total withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula?

(Answer) A partial US military withdrawal from South Korea would be welcome.  However, a total withdrawal of US troops from South Korea would be destabilizing in their perception.  It would mean that the US was ready to use long-range missiles against the DPRK, without putting its troops in harms way.

During the conversation, I encouraged the DPRK to participate in the Six Party Talks.  He said that the DPRK would never attend the Six Party Talks, because the DPRK would insist on holding only bilateral talks with the US.  I told him that sometimes, when I could not get an appointment to see someone, I would attend a party with that person attending, and find an opportunity to talk to him alone if possible.  He thought about it, smiled and said, “very interesting”.

The dinner turned out to be relaxing and Choe Thea-bok stayed for 3 hours.  I was pleased to learn that the DPRK attended the Six Party Talks soon after my visit, and had an opportunity to talk directly to the US representative.

Later on, at the invitation of the then DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Num-chun, I returned to the DPRK in August 2005, when the DPRK had just declared that it would not attend any further Six Party Talks, because of the following reasons.

  1.  US/Republic of Korea joint military exercise, which was happening at that same time.
  2. The appointment of Jay Lefkowitz as US Special Envoy on Human Rights in the DPRK.

When I arrived in Pyongyang, I listened to the DPRK Foreign Minister’s explanation on why the DPRK would not attend the Six Party Talks anymore.  The foreign ministers of the other five participants had already briefed me on their views so I was also up to date on the positions of all sides.  I told the DPRK foreign minister why it would be in the interest of the DPRK to go back to the Six Party Talks, and even sign an agreement in principle to dismantle its nuclear weapons.  We had a long and constructive conversation.  I was pleased to learn that the DPRK returned to the Six Party Talks 10 days after my departure from Pyongyang.  As you will recall, that meeting in September 2005, ended with the signing of the Framework Agreement on Denuclearization.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ARF can also play an important role regarding the Korean Peninsula.  After all, it is the only regional forum that comprises the US, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea, as well as all other members of the Six-Party Talks.  It is noteworthy that the ARF is at the ministerial level, whereas the Six-Party Talks are at a lower level. Participants can interact with one another at the ARF and create conducive environment for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. The ARF itself, under the leadership of its chair, could engage in personal diplomacy to facilitate reconciliation.

The ARF has spent so many years focusing on confidence building.  But building confidence alone is no longer sufficient.  It is now high time for the ARF to engage in preventive diplomacy. The ARF can help ensure that international tension will not escalate into conflicts, and conflicts will not escalate into wars. 

ASEAN and China are also using preventive diplomacy to find a peaceful solution regarding the South China Sea.  They have agreed to fully and effectively implement the DOC or the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  They are now working towards the early conclusion of the COC or the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.  Hope early is early. I was pleased to learn that ASEAN and China have agreed on “Early Harvest Measures”, including the establishment of effective hotlines between parties, which will help tackle problems on the ground and avoid conflicts in case of miscalculation. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Moving forward preventive diplomacy requires a lot of commitments and concerted efforts.  There is a lot of psychology involved.  It requires deep understanding of the perceptions of all sides.  It requires the personal touch from participants.  It requires the effective use of diplomacy.  It will not be easy.  But at the end of this long and difficult journey, one can hope for a more peaceful and stable Asia-Pacific region, a region which can genuinely be the growth engine for the rest of the world. 

On this note, I wish you every success in your deliberations throughout the next one and a half days in Bangkok.  I look forward to seeing the recommendations that you will provide at the end of this Symposium.  The ARF may not be the biggest security forum in the world, like the Airbus 380 is to the aviation industry, but it can contribute substantially to international peace, especially with the effective use of preventive diplomacy.

 

Thank you very much.