This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003704
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/BCLTV, EAP/K
HQ USPACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/30/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PARM PHUM KN KS TH DPRK
SUBJECT: THAILAND-DPRK RELATIONS: RTG SEES ITSELF AS
REF: A. STATE 97063
Â¶B. BANGKOK 3590
Â¶C. BANGKOK 3283
Â¶D. BANGKOK 3128
Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce. Reason 1.4 (b, d)
1 (C) SUMMARY: In past and recent high-level meetings
between senior U.S. and Royal Thai Government (RTG)
officials, the Thais have noted their willingness to serve as
a "mediator," or otherwise be helpful in international
efforts to return North Korea (DPRK) to the Six-Party Talks.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Deputy Prime Minister
Surakiart Sathirathai (when he was foreign minister) and
Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon have all indicated
their personal readiness to become involved in the issue.
MFA interlocutors have indicated that several Thai
initiatives are already underway. FM Kantathi will travel to
Pyongyang July 8-12 to lay the ground work for a possible
visit by Prime Minister Thaksin to meet with Kim Jong Il.
While Thailand does have commercial interests in the DPRK,
the Thai goal of playing some role in Korean peninsula
diplomacy appears to be based primarily on PM Thaksin's
ambitions that he and Thailand raise their leadership profile
in the region, and on DPM Surakiart's aggressive, ongoing
campaign to become the next UNSYG. END SUMMARY.
THAI PROPOSAL: "LET US SERVE AS MEDIATORS WITH THE DPRK"
Â¶2. (C) During Deputy Secretary Zoellick's and PACOM
Commander Admiral Fallon's visits to Bangkok in May, Foreign
Minister Kantathi raised the possibility of Thailand playing
a "mediating" role with the North Koreans "in order to get
them re-engaged with the international community" (reftels
C,D). During a May 31 meeting with Polcouns, MFA Deputy
Director General for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chakarin
Chayabongse and Director of Korean Affairs Suprapon Petch-Vra
(reftel B) made a direct offer for Thailand to serve as a
mediator. Chakarin noted that Thailand is interested in
contributing to stability in the region and intended to
respond to North Korean overtures for closer ties in 2005,
the 30th anniversary year of Thai-North Korean relations.
"The anniversary gives Thailand an opportunity to play an
important contribution, and move the Six-Party Talks forward
from the standstill they are at now," said Chakarin.
RECENT THAI ENGAGEMENT WITH THE KOREANS
Â¶3. (C) In outlining Thailand's suitability for some kind of
role, MFA officials emphasize the RTG's "closeness" to the
U.S. and China and what they regard as a "unique" level of
trust between the RTG and the DPRK. North Korean officials
apparently went to great lengths to pursue a bilateral
meeting on the margins of the April 22-23 Asia-Africa Summit
in Indonesia between PM Thaksin and Kim Yong Nam, President
of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly Presidium. During that
meeting Thaksin and Kim reportedly discussed the possibility
of Thaksin visiting North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Il.
(Note: Thaksin met Kim Jong Il in North Korea as a private
businessman, before he became Thailand's PM. End Note.) The
North Koreans reportedly told Thaksin in Jakarta that they
consider him -- and Thailand -- to be trusted interlocutors.
During his June 6 meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld (septel),
Thaksin confirmed that he had offered to serve as a mediator
and was prepared to meet personally with Kim Jong Il.
Thaksin said Foreign Minister Kantathi would travel to North
Korea July 8-12 to discuss this possibility with the North
Â¶4. (C) MFA officials told poloffs on May 31 that the RTG is
in contact with the North Koreans at several levels and that
recently there have been positive indications from the DPRK
on their willingness to rejoin the Six-Party talks.
(Comment: This could be wishful Thai thinking as the MFA
officials were not very explicit about the exchanges and had
no details to offer about the circumstances under which this
might happen. End Comment.) The MFA officials said that the
North Koreans had asked them to quietly approach other
countries on their behalf to assure them that North Korea is
not a threat.
Â¶5. (C) Kim Hong-Kyun, Political Counselor of the ROK
Embassy in Bangkok, recently confirmed to poloffs that during
Thaksin's May 24-27 visit to South Korea the PM also told
President Roh that he was willing to play a mediating role
between North Korea and the international community. Thaksin
reportedly told Roh that he was prepared to personally meet
with Kim Jong Il. Counselor Kim said the ROK understands
that the purpose of FM Kantathi's July visit to North Korea
is primarily to lay the ground work for such a Thaksin
Â¶6. (C) Kim reported that the ROK Embassy has frequent
exchanges with the Thai MFA about the Thai offer to be a
"mediator" with North Korea. Kim noted that Thailand enjoys
good relations with both the DPRK and the ROK. He said the
ROK welcomed the Thai offer to play a role as long as the
clear message delivered to the DPRK is that North Korea
should return to the Six-Party talks.
WHY ARE THE THAIS SO INTERESTED IN NORTH KOREA?
Â¶7. (C) The Thai interest in the Korean Peninsula is
probably based on two primary factors: Thaksin's desire for a
larger personal leadership role and a higher diplomatic
profile for Thailand in the region; and Deputy Prime Minister
Surakiart's overt campaign to become the next UNSYG. ROK
Counselor Kim Hong-Kyun and Dr. Vitit Muntarbhorn (a
respected academic and human rights activist, and currently
the first UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the DPRK
by the UN Human Rights Commission) both share this
assessment. Vitit opined to poloffs that the RTG saw the
potential publicity surrounding Thailand's involvement with
North Korea as a possible huge boost to their international
image, which would greatly bolster Surakiart's bid to become
UN Secretary General.
Â¶8. (C) Vitit also noted what many other regional observers
have been pointing out for some time: Thaksin is very serious
in his drive to be recognized as a prominent leader in Asia.
Thaksin understands that he has a window of opportunity now
given the relatively weak leadership offered by Thailand's
neighbors and other ASEAN countries, and wants to firmly
establish Thailand and himself as Southeast Asia's undisputed
leader, and a force in Asia writ large.
Â¶9. (C) Besides the personal ambitions of Thaksin and
Surakiart, commercial factors probably should be considered
when analyzing the recent Thai interest in North Korea. But
the Thai try to minimize that factor. During poloffs'
meeting with MFA DDG Chakarin, he said that Pyongyang is
overdue in paying the RTG 150 million dollars for past rice
sales, and that the pursuit of close ties with the DPRK was a
matter of establishing "trust not trade." Nevertheless, the
main thrust of Thaksin's overall foreign policy as "CEO Prime
Minister" is an expansion of trade and commercial
opportunities, and the Thai may see long-term potential in
North Korea for their telecom and agricultural sectors.