THERE are two most difficult, complex, but not impossible opportunities for peace-making in the Korean Peninsula and in the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict on both sides of the Persian Gulf — or Arab Gulf to the Arabs — in the Middle East.
In the case of the inter-Korean and US-North Korean conflicts, the South Koreans led by President Moon Jae-in and North Koreans led by Kim Jong-un, grandson of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, left to themselves, could move more expeditiously to a difficult but not impossible geopolitical settlement, which could perhaps include the following:
• North Korean and South Korean troops withdrawal from the areas of tension in the 38thParallel and leave the Panmunjom area as a genuine neutral zone bereft of armed troops from both sides and could even be a credible, mutually designated site to host peace and unification parleys, with permanent conference and support facilities.
• The American troops below the 38th Parallel and around Seoul could consider eventually disengaging from the South upon the establishment of a confirmed durable peace with the North, the foreseeable establishment of two divided but peaceful trading Korean states, until at some point both Koreas agree to unite like the two Vietnams or the two Germanys.
• Both sides could in the meantime exchange inter-Korean visits, especially among South Koreans with relatives in the North and North Koreans with relatives in the South, initiate the beginnings of limited North-South talks, and eventually even allow third-country tourists to visit Pyongyang in the North, which could lead to much larger numbers among Southerners and Northerners;
• Pending a North-South political settlement, both sides could agree not only on visits by tourists of various nations but by businessmen and traders of both sides and their joint-venture partners from third countries that would lead to an immediate mushrooming of commercial trade in the region. Then both sides could eventually agree on a common railways system from Pusan in the south across the 38th Parallel, all the way to Pyongyang and the North Korean-Chinese border and agree on large-scale exchanges of inter-Korean trade. The railway could later cross to Russia and on to Europe.
• Most important, with the increasing volume of inter-Korean trade and rapid exchange of visits, the US and North Korean governments could work on modalities for finally ending the Korean War, and conversion of their troops to police duties.
• Eventual phasing out of the North Korean nuclear weapons and withdrawal of US troops, weaponry, and facilities. This will be the subject of intricate, difficult negotiations and will most likely be long drawn-out and could take several years, but if there is mutual goodwill, this could lead to a final settlement and conclusion.
Obviously, these issues and arguments are easier said than done but if there is sincere, mutual goodwill and give-and-take, a final settlement is definitely possible.
In the Middle East, US President Donald Trump is correct in not allowing his militant and pro-war advisers to dictate policy. Instead, he could encourage opportunities for difficult but not impossible geo-political discussions leading to settlement in the area.
We would perhaps humbly suggest that the worrying fearsome conflict in the Persian Gulf (to the Persians) or Arab Gulf (to the Arabs) could lead to destruction of industrial facilities in cities and towns and modern infrastructure on both sides of the Gulf built patiently over the years, and indeed at incredible cost from their petroleum riches.
To simplify the basics of the conflict, let us simply state that the Muslim world had been divided since the earliest days of Islam between the Sunnis, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites, led by Iran, in a sense like the Catholics and Protestants of old Europe who had bitter, violent, and bloody wars for centuries.
Perhaps the time has now ome for well-meaning leaders from the UN and respected leaders from other nations and religious groups to encourage and initiate the beginnings of a peaceful inter-religious dialogue among the deeply divided Muslim Shiites and Sunnis, which would lead Iran and Saudi political and military leaders to take note and realize that these suicidal conflicts could devastate their countries with casualties in large numbers and could even involve weapons of mass destruction.
We might suggest that the UN secretary general could perhaps make a quiet visit to the capitals of Tehran and Riyadh, visit the Sunni mosques in Riyadh and the Shiite mosques in Tehran, and strongly propose the advisability and scenario of a Sunni-Shiite conference in Geneva or Paris or New York, initially attended by most capable Sunni-Shiite religious leaders and eventually by their highest political-religious leaders.
This will quickly bring a new dimension and perhaps a sobering effect on the tension-filled crisis in the Persian-Arab Gulf which in the last few days involved dangerous attacks on ships or oil tankers in the Gulf, assaults on oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia, and violent clashes in Yemen, long a site of large-scale clashes, and recently tensions and sporadic flare-ups in Syria and Israel.
We do not see immediate solutions but could appreciate the beginnings of perhaps of a serious, sensible, and peaceful dialogue among the Sunnis and Shiites.
We wish to thank Deputy Chairman Petr Tolstoy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation for their invitation for us to speak at the international forum on “Development of Parliamentarism” to be held in Moscow on July 1-2, 2019. We are reminded of Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers of all time not only in Russia but in the world.
The State Duma is Russia’s Lower House or House of Representatives, while its Upper House or Senate is called the Federation Council.
The Moscow parliamentary conference seeks to provide legislative response to global issues, particularly in the areas of peace, security, human development, and climate change and environmental protection. It will be participated in by lawmakers, scholars, experts, and leaders of civil society around the world.
Regretfully, we told our friend, the able Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev that we would have wanted to participate in such an important and distinguished gathering, having been privileged to spend 23 years of our life as a parliamentarian and for 14 years as speaker five times of the House of Representatives, but could not do so as we had earlier accepted an invitation from Asian and Filipino communities in the US during the same period.
We were also privileged to have led several parliamentary organizations in Asia and the global community.
We co-founded the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), now composed of more than 40 parliaments in Asia, with Sen. Mushahid Hussain Sayed of Pakistan, to create what we envisioned to be the beginnings of a still distant Asian Parliament. We had transferred the APA headquarters from Manila to Tehran to bring APA into an Asia-wide organization, instead of limited to East Asia, and to help bring Iran into the mainstream.
We also served as president of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP), forerunner of APA, and twice president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO). We also helped transform AIPO into the now AIPA or ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and established an AIPA Secretariat based in Jakarta.
Currently, we serve as co-chairman, with former 30-year US Congressman Dan Burton, of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), representing parliamentarians from the various continents around the world.
We are honored to mention these because we believe with persistent and constructive exchanges, parliamentarians play a crucial role in building stable, secure, peaceful, and progressive fraternities in the global community.