- Mr Passy, in 2007 and 2008, as head of the parliamentary foreign policy committee, you joined the international effort to bring the two Koreas closer together. Were all these attempts in vain from today’s point of view, when this conflict is erupting with new force?
- In 2007, Bulgaria had just joined the EU and had won, albeit diplomatically, the freedom of our medics in Libya. At the same time, our relations with North Korea had a solid background that could be used. Our American allies have entrusted me with a very responsible mission – to convey to North Korea that if it follows Libya’s example and abandons its nuclear missile program, it will receive all the benefits and advantages that Libya already enjoyed in 2007. I believe that The message conveyed by the Bulgarian delegation I was leading was heard very well and taken very seriously. What followed, unfortunately temporarily, was a warming of relations between the two Koreas. But at the moment we have to start again from elevation zero.
- Do the ideas for peace and unification already seem hopeless?
“I am convinced that the reunification of the Korean Peninsula is a matter of time, but the important thing now is to try to shorten that time and avoid any further casualties on this difficult path.” The international community must make every effort to integrate North Korea into international life. The isolation to which the North Korean people are subjected does not help the outcome.
- How do you see this integration?
- One untapped opportunity is the provision of scholarships to North Korean students to study in EU countries. Personally, I was impressed by how many North Korean diplomats speak excellent Bulgarian. I shared this idea with George Soros and received his generous consent to fund five North Koreans to study at the American University in Blagoevgrad. And that would be a good start.
- I remember that a few days after your talks in Pyongyang in the summer of 2007 came the news of a meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas. For the first time in 7 years and the second similar in the history of both countries. What did you feel then?
- For any politician, statesman or diplomat, this is a moment of temporary satisfaction. But also lessons. I saw how far-sighted the Bulgarian diplomacy was, which had kept its embassy in Pyongyang for the last 20 years. I even suggested to the then Foreign Minister that this mission be elevated to a rank and that our embassy be used for an enhanced EU presence in North Korea.
- You were the highest-ranking Bulgarian politician after Todor Zhivkov, who undertook the visit to the DPRK. And you stayed that way. Do you think that this visit was necessary after the contacts with Pyongyang did not continue later?
- At that time I already represented not only Bulgaria but also the European Union. I reported on my Korean mission to the European Parliament at a conference of representatives of the 27 EU external commissions. I also talked to Javier Solana. I have tried to convince the EU at all levels that it is the Union that is the big missing player on the table of the six-party negotiations. If the EU really wants to become a global diplomatic factor, it must commit to the Korean conflict and Korean unification.
- And Bulgaria?
- Bulgaria has solid know-how to offer the EU in diplomacy with North Korea. This country is like taken out of our history textbook. In addition, Bulgaria is really important for North Korea. And the proof of this is that the North Korean embassy in Sofia is one of the largest that the state maintains in Europe. From Sofia it covers nine other countries.
- When you visited South Korea a year later, did you not get the impression that these two countries are so different from each other that their unification is impossible?
- The unification is forthcoming, and the Koreans will be able to rely on the experience of Germany, which has long passed this time. South Korea is one of the most technologically, scientifically and intellectually impressive countries, and it is a guarantee of a well-thought-out and implemented future unification policy.
- Then you also met with the US Ambassador in Seoul. Don’t you think that this division of the peninsula, which is one of the last remnants of the Cold War, is being deliberately maintained by several major countries with interests in the region?
- The major participants in the 6-party dialogue want a peaceful solution. But I think it is time for NATO to become more involved in this conflict. In the 1950s, during the Korean War, NATO was a newly formed organization whose main task was to protect the West from the Soviet Union. Today, Russia, like China, is not an enemy or a threat to NATO, and it is only natural that we should join forces to resolve the conflict more quickly and painlessly. Moreover, I believe that we have another very useful move that has not yet been played, for which, however, the accumulations of the Cold War must be overcome.
- Replacement of some of the 30,000 American soldiers in South Korea with allied units, including Bulgarian ones. The world must show unity that calms the South and respects the North. The diplomacy that NATO can pursue with its military presence in Korea, reinforced by an EU commitment to the issue, could prove to be the magical solution to this conflict, which is now rightly troubling the world.
In the summer of 2007, Solomon Passy participated in a goodwill mission in Pyongyang, North Korea, where he met with North Korean Supreme National Assembly Speaker Che Te Bok, ministers and senior representatives of the Korean Labor Party. A year later, he visited Seoul, South Korea, where he spoke with Korean Reunification Minister Ha-jung Kim and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Jin Park.
Solomon Passy was born on December 22, 1956 in Plovdiv. Founder and honorary president of the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria. Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha from 2001 to 2005. Chairman of the UN Security Council (2002 and 2003) and of the OSCE (2004) Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the 40th National Assembly.
Source: 24 chasa.bg.