Photo: President Reagan says goodbye to Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev after the last meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 12 October 1986. Credit: White House Photo Office. - Photo: 2017

Towards Peace by Pursuing Live and Let Live Policies

By Somar Wijayadasa*

NEW YORK (IDN) – Foreign policies – an integral part of any national strategy – command the highest priority of all nations.

Since World War II, several foreign policies of super powers did not yield expected results even though all policies and concomitant interventions came with guarantees of peace, prosperity and democracy that never materialized. 

As we know, the policies in the Far East led to devastation of Vietnam, North Korea and Laos, the policy of containment of communism, and the 45-year Cold War Policy ended the East European bloc and dismantled the Soviet Union, and the policies of pre-emptive strikes and of regime change destroyed the lives of millions of people in the Middle East. 

According to Tom Mayer, a peace activist, “US military intervention has been a calamity in the Middle East. They have destroyed Iraq, destabilized Libya, fostered dictatorship in Egypt, accelerated civil war in Syria, and the destruction of Yemen, and helped squelch a pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.”

There is no doubt that United States of America is the preeminent military power in the world, and no country has ever threatened to attack America – except, of course, as reciprocal threats.

Superpowers’ sabre rattling around the world

Recent geopolitical upheavals such as Russophobia, and paranoia that Russia is about to invade its neighbors, China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, Crisis in Ukraine, economic blockades and sanctions based on tenuous claims, hotbeds of terrorism in the Middle East, and North Korea’s nuclear crisis cause trepidation and discord around the world.

NATO’s deployment of troops and military equipment including missiles in several countries (Poland, Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania) is the biggest deployment of Western troops in Eastern Europe since the end of the cold war – that Kremlin sees as a grave threat to Russia’s national security even though the EU and NATO retort that it is “of a defensive nature and not posing a threat to Russia.”

The U.S. deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea despite admonitions of the South Koreans, Chinese and Russians.

All military powers are upgrading their missiles, weapons systems including lethal nuclear weapons, saber rattling and war maneuvers in the Arctic, the Baltics, the Black Sea, and in the China Sea are nothing but a recipe for a colossal disaster – as any accident or a calculated pre-emptive strike on any country could lead to a nuclear war that would end in mutual annihilation. 

Besides, many countries – rich and poor – spend billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to buy more advanced and lethal weapons. What for? 

According to UNICEF, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty (i.e. less than $1.25 a day) 22,000 children die each day due to poverty, and 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat.

Why don’t we utilize those funds we waste on militarization to uplift the poor, to build crumbling roads & bridges, improve public transportation, and re-build schools that are falling apart?

North Korea – a threat to peace and security

North Korea has, since 2016, tested two nuclear bombs and more than 30 missiles in violation of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

In April, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres strongly condemned North Korea’s repeated violations of the UNSC resolutions, and said that ”Its continued pursuit of its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes, … clearly threatens regional and international security and seriously undermines international disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.”

USA warned that a “major conflict” with North Korea was possible and sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group and a nuclear submarine to Korean waters heightening the possibility of confrontation.

Make no mistake that any unilateral military action against another Sovereign State is an illegitimate act of aggression that would constitute a flagrant violation of International Law and the UN Charter which clearly states that the use of force is not legitimate unless authorized by the UN Security Council or in self-defense [after a direct attack]. 

Any pre-emptive strike on North Korea (as in the case of Iraq in 2003) or an attempt at regime change or even an accidental attack would make tyrannical Kim Jong-un to retaliate causing destruction and carnage in Japan and South Korea – triggering a Third World War.

Can this be peacefully resolved?  YES, absolutely

We need to act now to prevent conflict and achieve sustainable peace – by utilizing proven mechanisms (dialogue and consultation) to resolve such problems.   

Historical evidence shows us the way. For example, in 1962, when the world stood on the brink of a nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis, American and Soviet leaders recognized that a nuclear war would be nothing but mutual annihilation, and both agreed to a “live & let live” deal in which the Soviets would dismantle the Cuban weapon sites in exchange for a pledge from the United States not to invade Cuba. 

Furthermore, in a separate deal, which remained confidential for twenty-five years, the United States also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.

The North Korean crisis too can be resolved if all parties have the will to maintain peace and stability in the world. 

The first vital need has already been met

In the past weeks, the UN Security Council, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and most importantly North Korea have expressed their willingness to negotiate for a peaceful solution.

It is necessary now to revive the six-party talks with a cogent agenda that North Korea would agree to refrain from further testing of nuclear weapons, and explore the resumption of dialogue.

Paramount goals of the “six-party” talks should be: North Korea must halt all nuclear weapons development; comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions; ban the joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea; the U.S. should agree to remove the THAAD missiles from South Korea; sign the long-overdue Peace Treaty between the two Koreas, North Korea should re-enter the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide the necessary guarantees that North Korea’s nuclear program is inactive.

The Cuban missile crisis was resolved only because President John Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev knew about the brutal consequences of nuclear war.

Kennedy said: “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” And Khrushchev said: “When I learned all the facts about nuclear power I couldn’t sleep for several days.”

While knowing history is necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes, all leaders of nuclear powers must learn about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the horrors of nuclear weapons.

Philosopher Georg Hegel said, “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” 

Since various foreign policies such as pre-emptive strikes, regime changes, sanctions, and embargoes resulted in unforeseen consequences, all nuclear powers should pursue a “Live and Let Live” policy.

They should rally the whole world in support of the UN efforts on denuclearization such as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

All nations should respect the UN Charter, adhere to International Law, use diplomacy and peaceful means to resolve international conflicts, and work harmoniously and in partnership to establish a world order that ensures peace, justice, security and prosperity for all.

*Somar Wijayadasa, an International lawyer was a UNESCO delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995, and was Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 May 2017]

Photo: President Reagan says goodbye to Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev after the last meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 12 October 1986. Credit: White House Photo Office.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. – 

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