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Could Winston Peters hold the key to persuading North Korea to dump its nukes?

Wednesday 15th November 2017

Heroes. Capes. Etc.

 

Winston Peters' famous glare.
Winston Peters glares at someone, possibly a small child.

Photo: AFP

Winston Peters’ three year victory lap may include a visit to North Korea.

The NZ First leader and Foreign Minister has met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson twice in the past week, and while their chat has been kept top secret, Peters says it has something to do with an initiative in the Asia-Pacific region.

Most mainstream media outlets are reporting Peters could be taken into North Korea as part of a liaison visit.

As North Korea’s nuclear weapons program strengthens, we rate the chances of Peters holding the key to persuading despotic leader Kim Jong-un to disarm.

Here’s what the two can yarn about:

OPTIMISM

Unlike US President Donald Trump’s endless antagonism towards North Korea, Peters has taken a softer, “let’s be friends” approach.

Last month, he said: “We do not think that North Korea is an utterly hopeless case ... we need to better understand that region.”

“We do need to be a good international neighbour.”

While Kim Jong-un has shown little interest in diplomacy, Peters’ soothing tones may persuade him love can find a way.

"Yay, we did it!" Kim Jong-un celebrates a successful missile test.

Photo: AFP

PESSIMISM

The flipside is, unlike Donald Trump’s seeming ignorance of the perils of nuclear war, Peters knows full well that nuclear = not good.

In fact, he’s so wary, he isn’t afraid to give innocent little children nightmares. In a pre-election episode of TVNZ's Face The Classroom, Peters told a group of 8-12 year olds that nuclear war would doom us all.

“When you go nuclear, you will potentially destroy the whole planet - that means everything and everybody. And it's best I tell you what I think the worst scenario is, rather than just tell you something that may not be true.”

Bleak.

Peters’ comment shows just how cognoscant he is of nuclear destruction, and can therefore adapt his savvy negotiating skills to suit.

FAMILIARITY

Unlike many wannabe Dennis Rodman’s, Peters has previously visited North Korea.

In 2007, during his previous stint as Foreign Minister, he visited the country to persuade them to dismantle their nuclear program in exchange for economic development aid. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.

This may seem like a negative, but his familiarity with the country could prove useful.

Aside from knowing where the best eats are, he can catch up with some familiar faces and reminisce about old times.

His earlier visit did yield some success - he persuaded North Korea to ensure safe harbour for 97,000 birds that transit to New Zealand. A handful of Kiwi bird enthusiasts have since been allowed to visit.

In yer face.

“It was an unusual outcome, but maybe we can shoot higher [next] time and might possibly be successful,” he told media last month.

WINE AND WHISKEY

What better to bond two strong characters than a smooth glass of fine wine or high-end whiskey.

Peters’ love of the latter is historic - he is known to negotiate over a tipple - while in 1994 he brought hundreds of papers relating to allegations of serious fraud in a wine box.

Kim Jong-Un should have an enviable liquor cabinet - earlier this year it was revealed he has blown tens of thousands of dollars buying fine wine and whiskey from the US.

A photo of some whiskey.
A photo of some whiskey.

Photo: AFP

HORSE RACING

Gambling on the horses was banned and punishable by hard labour in North Korea until last month, when racetracks where opened up to provide the state with some much-needed moolah.

Quoting Korean television, the New York Post reported: “Racegoers aged 12 or older were allowed to bet on jockeys in a raffle-type system.”

Here in New Zealand, Peters’ love and defence of horse racing is well-known. One of his bottom lines for the new Government was getting a better tax deal for the racing industry.

His policies include improving the quality of facilities in the racing industry, better prize money and, yup, encouraging the “family-friendliness” of racing.

Perhaps Kim can ask our deputy PM for advice on building a financially stable industry.

A POTENTIAL NEGATIVE

However, there is a bit of a risk of Peters being executed during his visit.

A recent bio by Stuff claims the deputy PM has a history of sleeping through cabinet meetings, whereas Kim Jong-un once, according to the Daily Mail, executed a high-ranking official with an anti-aircraft gun for falling asleep in a meeting.

For the love of God, pack some Red Bull, Winston!



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Max is a journalist who has worked for The Star, Bleacher Report and RNZ News.
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