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Diplomats Urge Caution on North Korea Nuke Tests: Burkle Center Senior Fellow Kantathi Suphamongkhon Offers His Insight into North Korea

Former diplomat Suphamongkhon shares his expertise on Pyongyang's recent nuclear tests, recommends more communication between the world and North Korea.

Excerpt from article by Ted Regencia:

"Veteran diplomat Kantathi Suphamongkhon had been to Pyongyang several times, and dealt with top officials there. He told Al Jazeera that the last thing the country needs is an an all-out armed conflict. 

In one of his trips to Pyongyang as Thai foreign minister a few years ago, Suphamongkhon recalled asking top officials how they would react to a complete withdrawal of US troops from the border with South Korea. 

The answer surprised him. Pyongyang, he said, saw the idea as an 'act of destabilisation' instead of a peaceful overture - a sign that the US is getting ready for a missile strike.

The incident, Suphamongkhon said, illustrates North Korea's 'gap of perception' and  level of suspicion, which in turn fuels its antagonistic behaviour towards the US and the world.

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'There's a lot of misunderstanding going on,' Suphamongkhon told Al Jazeera. 'If one looks into their mind, they see themselves as victims. So their behaviour is logical from that standpoint.'

'There is an extreme fear from their side,' said the former Thai diplomat, adding that this sense of insecurity has fueled the country's 'tendency to be provocative' with its actions. He said that with the latest threats, Kim Jong-un is trying to project his power and assert his leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in late 2011.  

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'I see the UN Security Council resolution and all those things as public diplomacy,' Suphamongkhon said. 'But you need that more private diplomacy with a credible person that's acceptable to all sides, to try to bridge that gap. I think that is crucial.'

While strengthening its cooperation with China to continue to monitor North Korea's nuclear activities, in the public diplomacy sphere, the Obama administration should also try a parallel soft-power approach with Pyongyang, he said.   

Suphamongkhon said the US had some 'degree of success' in such kind of diplomacy when the New York Philharmonic Orchestra performed in the North Korean capital in 2008.  

Unofficial visits similar to Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson made recently, should be also be encouraged, Suphamongkhon added.

'The US can always say that it is not officially sending these people in. But the communication that takes place, I think is something useful,' he said, before specifically suggesting music legend Eric Clapton, who is actually an Englishman, to perform in Pyongyang, apparently hinting at Kim Jong-un's fondness for Western music.

'One thing that is clearly lacking is effective communication between the world and North Korea,' he said."

To view the original Al Jazeera article, click here.

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