Choe Tae Bok, the Chairman of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, is in town next week on a charm offensive. Tea with Lord Alton and members of the North Korea All-Party Parliamentary Group at the House of Lords (Anglo-Korean Society members were included in the invitation) on Wednesday (30 March), dinner with Asia House corporate members on Monday (28 March), and a talk and Chatham House on Tuesday afternoon (29 March). I’ve put myself down for the Chatham House event but haven’t heard back yet so am not optimistic that my name’s on the door.
Maybe it doesn’t matter: you just know what he’s going to say. 20 minutes of background about how America was the aggressor in the Korean War and bombed the North to oblivion; how the war never ended, how they desperately want a peace treaty with the US. Regarding the history of the nuclear issue and the six party talks he will say how the RoK and the US never delivered their side of the bargain. And he will probably protest how belligerent the South is being, saying that the shelling of Yeongpyeong was legitimate self-defence in retaliation for the South lobbing shells into their territorial waters – because the North never signed up to the Northern Limit Line, the sea border recognised by the South and the US.
He will give so much background that there will be little time in his prepared remarks to talk about the real subject of whether the North has any real intention of giving up its nuclear programme. But the gist will be that of course they will, once they are sure that the evil American imperialists aren’t going to attack them.
His prepared remarks will avoid the subject of the Cheonan, unless to claim that the sinking was staged by the South Koreans to escalate tensions with the North.
There will only be time for two questions because his answers will be rambling and take so long to translate. And everyone will be very polite.
Though I sound cynical, it’s always good to be reminded of the Northern viewpoint. And it’s so rare to hear a Northener speak that it’s worth trying to get to one of these events. And I look forward to being proved wrong.
The talk was under the Chatham House Rule, so nothing of interest can be attributed to individual speakers. But as the KCNA has made a public announcement on the matter, I report on Choe’s position on DPRK’s nuclear weapons here. Also, I hear that when Choe Tae Bok appeared in Parliament during his visit, some troublesome MPs had sneaked in a couple of defectors to heckle him.
(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.