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Speeches

D. de Villepin: Address to World Summit 2022, Plenary Session V

Address to World Summit
February 11-13, 2022

 

Excellencies and Dear Friends,

Let me say first how pleased I am to participate in this World Summit 2022, addressing the important challenge of peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula under the auspices of UPF founder and host Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon with the co-chairs Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia and former Secretary-General of the U.N. Ban Ki-moon.

  1. Our world is facing huge uncertainties and tensions because we are going through a massive transition, aggravated by the impact of the world pandemic:
  • We face a geopolitical transition with the shift of global power from the West to the East, as shown by the historic rise of China;
  • We face also a demographic challenge with the rising number of human beings likely to reach about 10 billion by 2050;
  • We face energy and climate concerns as the world is experiencing the consequences of global warming;
  • Last but not least, we are going through a new technological revolution with a risk of confrontation and global fragmentation in the digital space.
  1. Never before has the risk of war been higher than today:
  • We can see in the Middle East a number of failed states (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya … ) spreading instability in the whole region and triggering the intervention of foreign forces like Turkish and Russian troops.
  • The risks increase in Africa, given the expansion of violent extremism in the Sahel fueled by Islamism;
  • The risks are also tangible in Europe, especially in Ukraine with the deployment of Russian troops at the border;
  • But the epicenter of the world’s crisis is developing in Asia, seen as the frontline of the most powerful nations: the United States and China, competing for leadership, power and influence, divided over the questions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and the Xinjiang autonomous region.
  1. Among the major threats, we have, of course, the climate danger putting humanity at risk on all the continents, but also terrorism as a universal source of instability in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. We should not forget the threat of nuclear proliferation becoming the major danger to international stability, as shown by the Iranian and North Korean crises. In such matters, time is a key factor if we don’t want things getting out of hand;
  • After many hopes in 2018 and 2019 in the Korean Peninsula, North Korea decided to break the talks. But, after a long 21-month pause due to the COVID crisis, escalation has restarted with the launch of seven missile tests this year, and new tests with a “hypersonic” gliding vehicle, much more difficult to intercept.
  • No wonder that the worries are rising. Following many estimates, North Korea could have 20 to 45 warheads, or even more.
  • This is a long-term crisis. Together with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is the last crisis of the 20th century combining legacies of the colonial past, of the crisis of ultranationalism of the Second World War and also of the Cold War.
  • It is a crisis of sovereignty and independence which has been, in the North as well as in the South, the constant preoccupation of the two Koreas, located in between great empires: China, Japan, Russia. This can explain the Juche ideology of the Kim dynasty.
  • It is a crisis of nuclear proliferation which after 1989 has switched from a global balance of terror to the sum of regional imbalances of terror. That’s why we have to address these issues on a case-by-case basis, of course, but also in a systematic way.  We need to reflect also on a larger array of proliferations, in artificial intelligence or bioweapons, for example, but at the same time on the changing nature of the international system and on the new phenomenon of the endless extension of warfare to all dimensions of international activity: economics, culture, law, finance. No sector is spared by this evolution.
  • What’s the possible response? After the “strategic patience” of Barack Obama and the “maximal pressure” of Donald Trump, followed by a spectacular policy of rapprochement in 2018, Joe Biden is looking for a new approach combining carrot and stick, sanctions and diplomacy. But while sanctions have proved not very effective in the past, Pyongyang also can count on the veto support of Russia and China in the UN Security Council. We are in a defining moment:  South Korea is due to have presidential elections in March, the United States is preparing for its midterm elections, and the decisive 20th Chinese Party Congress will take place at the end of the year. In this context, the Korean Peninsula could be the ground of an exemplary pathway to peace.
  • In 2018, the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un took place without precondition and any serious preparation, while it should have been the conclusion of the whole process.
  • Many may think it is possible to bring the situation under control through a series of endless formal negotiations with cyclical outbursts. But this is not a solution. On the contrary, it creates the conditions for an out-of-control proliferation crisis in a volatile global environment, with the China-US confrontation.
  • In order to have a fruitful dialogue, the strategy should be based on political, cultural and social interactions responding to the aspirations of both people and regimes. Because of the tragic economic, social and sanitary situation of North Korea, we know the needs are huge, but, at the same time, we should not underestimate the resilience of the regime, obsessed with survival and pride. Therefore, accepting the principle of no-regime-change along with offering the perspective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, free of foreign troops, should be the main basis of a successful strategy.
  • Besides, we should agree on a roadmap, organizing the negotiations, step by step, in order to reach a peace treaty respectful of the Panmunjom Declaration.
  • At each phase of these negotiations, it is important to put in place strong economic and security incentives with, for example, a progressive lifting of sanctions and a double freeze of nuclear development and military exercises before any process of denuclearization.
  • It is important to mobilize the international community and institutions in order to accompany, mediate, and guarantee the talks as well as the commitments. Involving regional and world players—China, the United States, Europe, and Russia—would, of course, reinforce the seriousness of the process.

I do believe that combining a roadmap with incentives and mechanisms is the best way to achieve objectives like opening up borders, enhancing economic cooperation and allowing family reunions further to the Sunshine Policy started in 1998 with concrete impact like the united ice hockey team in the previous Winter Olympics.

  1. More globally, avoiding escalation implies the ability to mobilize all means to break the spiral of violence;
  • First, peace depends on the willingness for change: frozen conflicts and status quo, due to the lack of will, often pave the ground for endless wars, increasing anger, hatred and resentment inside societies. This is the case in the Israeli-Palestinian territories, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Africa as well as the Korean Peninsula;
  • Second, peace depends on the willingness for cultural dialogue. Peacebuilding makes it crucial to foster mutual understanding. That’s why art, education, universities, foundations, churches, NGOs are necessary in facilitating cross-border exchanges;
  • Third, peace also depends on the willingness for economic cooperation: In this regard, companies, banks and entrepreneurs have a major role to play in ensuring prosperity and development.

With determination, pragmatism and, of course, imagination, we might be able to take the lessons of the past and face the challenges of today’s world, setting an example for the new generations. We have an opportunity today; we should seize it. The world has been waiting for too long; the people of both Koreas, as well as our people, count on us. We should not let them down. Each one of us can and may contribute. This could be the starting point of a peaceful revolution, a renewed awareness of the global community finally taking into its hands its own destiny.

 

 


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