MITCH HARRIS: Our Man on the Peninsula

Opinion 16/11/2017

Why it wouldn’t be surprising if the US do want Winston Peters to be a Special Envoy to North Korea.

We should soon know what it is that US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, wants Winston Peters to do. The speculation has been that Tillerson wants Peters to revive his role as special envoy to the Hermit Kingdom in some sort of negotiating role.

The US State Department is still to appoint many of the regional analysts who left after Donald Trump became President. Apparently, Tillerson operates the State Department in a very similar manner to how he ran Exxon. He prefers to have a tight team around him that holds all the information and makes all the decisions.

The last time Mr Peters was Foreign Minister he was famously made a Special Envoy to North Korea by then US Foreign Secretary Condaleeza Rice, with whom he enjoyed a very close rapport.

It has generally been considered that Peters was not able to achieve much in his talks with his North Korean counterpart ten years ago.

But according to Security Analyst Paul Buchanan, that is not true. Buchanan says that during what was known as the “five party talks” Winston Peters negotiated a deal by which Japan provided bunker fuel in exchange for the North Koreans delaying the construction of a missile launching pad.

Paul Buchanan says that might not sound like much, but it had the effect of delaying North Korea’s missile programme for several years. And he says it was Winston Peters who charmed the North Koreans into the deal.  

Furthermore, says Buchanan, it would not be surprising that Rex Tillerson knows about Peter’s former role and not having all the personnel he needs, would shoulder tap the Foreign Minister again. That, according to Paul Buchanan, would put New Zealand centre-stage in what is arguably one of the most pressing international issues of the moment.

AUDIO LINK: Mitch Harris talks with Paul Buchanan of 36th Parallel (full interview), Wednesday night, 16th November 2017.

Night Talk with Mitch Harris, 8pm - 12am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.