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G. Heath King: The da Vinci Peace Plan for North Korea

G. Heath King: The da Vinci Peace Plan for North Korea
This picture from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on March 26, 2018, and released on March 28, 2018, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivering a speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 30 March 2018 09:00 AM

In an effort to avert war by introducing economic and cultural exchange Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century designed an innovative system of dams and canals known as the Navigli to make the River Ada navigable between Milan and Lake Como. The project, while at first enthusiastically greeted, encountered bureaucratic barriers and remained marooned in the smoke and mirrors of officialdom.

Today remnants of Leonardo’s designs are preserved at the Navigli Museum in Milan. Yet the intent for which they were conceived remains intact and of even greater relevance in our time. In the lull of the nuclear ultimatums between the U.S. and North Korea Trump may have maneuvered Kim Jong Un into a position of finally making fundamental changes in the economy of North Korea in exchange for gradual denuclearization. An opportunity may thus present itself to set North Korea on a more enlightened footing with the U.S. and Asia.

As I pointed out in a Newsmax Magazine article of 2013, entitled "Inside the Mind of Kim Jong Un," Western observers were consistently awry in their predictions as to how North Korea would respond to major internal crises. This extended from the conviction of Gen. Gary Luck, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, of its demise after the famine of 1995-97, to CIA Director George Tenet’s forecast of radical change a decade later, to the prophecy of U.S Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz during George Bush’s administration that upheaval would take place in reaction to North Korea’s failed currency reforms. The conjectures in the course of the Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama presidencies fared no better.

It is unprecedented that an American president will meet with a leader of North Korea; and this requires an equally unprecedented entrepreneur of global political savvy to initiate and consummate. My advice, made to a close confidant of the president several months ago, was that Trump, who hammered out and finessed the formula for an unparalleled economic expansion in peace time, should at the outset negotiate directly with Kim.

A tectonic shift of this dimension would be most effective, indeed most plausible, if other key Asian nations were included in a new economic alliance. A prefiguration of such an agreement can be found in the Six Party talks with North Korea of 2007, leading to the shutdown of its major nuclear facility at Yongbyon in exchange for fuel and grains. There have been announcements by North Korea over the years of reopening the plant but recent satellite and infra-red imagery show its operation to have remained terminated or negligibly functional.

The nations that participated in this agreement — South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia — are the same that would benefit from a new economic alliance and denuclearization that Trump is capable of forming, for unlike the traditional politicians his presidency has shown it is unlikely to be hindered by conventional protocol and preconceptions.

Already through unofficial channels in the 1980s Japan’s annual trade with North Korea, for one, exceeded $200 million. The psychological preconditions for a rapprochement began to take form when Japan formally apologized in 1991 for the colonial rule it imposed on North Korea in 1910-45.

The tariff tiff at this time should be understood as a negotiable chip, an expression of Trump’s Art of the Deal. The refined efficacy of the “double-bind” strategy — critique and embrace — was identified by the sociologist Gregory Bateson in the 1950s, and later developed in the clinical realm by the psychoanalyst RD Laing. Though not recognized as such, this has been Trump’s signature strategy, from his presidential campaign to passing the new Tax Bill, against unprecedented odds.

It is no accident that Kim Jong Un is making overtures at this time, for the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, caused a shift in trade to China and South Korea for which it was ill prepared. The infrastructural hindrances inherent in this transition and a spate of natural calamities left its economy severely compromised, increasingly so in recent years. It is thus also no accident that Kim had resumed launching nuclear missiles of late, for with every lift off he is not only intimidating his neighbors, but also displaying his wares, which are sold to Iran and Libya, extending to other Islamic labyrinths of terrorism.

However, it is no doubt becoming clear to Kim that these and other equally ailing, unreliable affiliations are unable to keep his head above a potential eco-political tsunami. The Rocket Man persona has played itself out. As the lyrics go in Elton John’s song, "Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone…I’m not the man they think I am at home."

Russia’s infusion of food and oil supplies into North Korea in 2008, in accordance with the Six-Party agreement, has further set the stage for a more extensive economic alliance in unison with an inclusive Trump initiative. The delivery was intensified with a bilateral trade agreement in 2011, in the form of 50,000 tons of grain and $5 million worth of flour.

Putin’s intent to use food deliveries as leverage to reduce the nuclear capacity of North Korea was evident when two years later he prohibited Russian companies, in liaison with the UN Security Council, from giving technical advice to North Korea’s ballistic missile program. This was followed by halting the dealings of Russian banks with North Korea, again in unison with UN sanctions of 2016.

Much as Trump’s double-bind strategy of ‘critique and embrace’ has proven effective in multiple arenas, so too has the psychologically astute Putin employed it with aplomb: In the midst of the teeter-totter of survival commodities and nuclear strictures, Putin garnered an agreement that the currency of all trade between North Korea and Russia would be conducted in rubles, thus setting the stage for more stable economic inroads.

As China is North Korea’s second largest trading partner, with 57 percent of North Korea’s imports coming from this burgeoning giant, both countries would greatly benefit from a new expanded economic focus that would transform North Korea’s failing economy from military production and war footing to a consumer template, as has been incrementally taking place in China itself.

One bargaining chip, crafted by Trump’s prescient pressure on China, would be the lifting of the restriction on coal imports, the leading export of North Korea, thus generating focus on clean coal production rather than nuclear. Another would be the resumption of production of North Korean companies that were ordered to close in China. These companies had generated trade affording the raw materials, agricultural, and fishery products North Korea sorely needs.

The time may be at hand to pick up the thread from the highly successful summit at Mar-a-Lago with China’s President Xi Jinping a year ago, weaving it beyond the "100-day plan" to discuss trade, as related by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross who was present. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who also participated in the summit, reported the "very similar economic interests," between the U.S. and China. It was at that time too that former Secretary of State Tillerson observed at the end of a discussion about North Korea, that Xi and Trump agreed the situation, "has reached a very serious stage in terms of advancement."

Trump’s recent appointment of the far-sighted and innovative Larry Kudlow as chief White House Economic Advisor appears timely for the next stage of this advance.

Trump would no doubt extend similar cultural geniality to Kim Jong Un at Mar-a-Lago as he did when his two grandchildren sang in Mandarin the Chinese ballad "Jasmine Flower" to Xi and his wife. Former schoolmates of the more hip Kim say that his favorite song is "Brother Louie," a hit tune of the German electropop band Modern Talking, while Dennis Rodman reports he listens to the "Rocky" and "Dallas" theme songs for hours at a time. As both Kim and Trump are ice cream aficionados there could be no better way of beginning entrepreneurial negotiations than with two sundaes, one with Kim’s favorite hot kimchi sauce, the other with Trump’s hot fudge.

The potential for North Korea’s transition away from a military based economy to one that is consumer oriented is perhaps nowhere more evident than the effect of Kaesong industrial zone, which accounts for half of South Korea’s $1.7 billion trade with the North, and approximately one-third of North Korea’s external trade.

This zone focuses on goods desired by the common populace such as clothes and watches. It thus has served as a kind of fiscal pedagogic pulpit to educate the populace of North Korea on the advancement of their economic well-being were Korea unified. While the compound has been temporarily shut down by South Korea, we may expect that its reestablishment and expansion, as already alluded to by the new president of South Korea, Kooj Jae-in, would be integral to a viable da Vinci peace plan.

Indeed the very location of the Kaesong industrial zone, at the far end of North Korea and without a transportation network to China and beyond, recalls da Vinci’s plan to foster peace and prosperity by opening up a trade route between Milan and Lake Como.

Abba Eban, arguably one of the most deeply informed peace negotiators of ever arching reach in the twentieth century, mused, “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”

G. Heath King, Ph.D, is a psychoanalyst and former professor of interdisciplinary studies at Yale University. He is author of "Existence, Thought, Style: Perspectives of a Primary Relation, Portrayed Through the Work of Søren Kierkegaard." He explored the philosophical foundations of psychology at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where he received his doctorate. He is the author of the Newsmax series "Inside the Mind of World Leaders," an innovative approach in evaluating and predicting world events.

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In an effort to avert war by introducing economic and cultural exchange Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century designed an innovative system of dams and canals known as the Navigli to make the River Ada navigable between Milan and Lake Como.
north korea, trump, peace
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2018-00-30
Friday, 30 March 2018 09:00 AM
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