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ICC Note: The Vatican is exploring its options to get in touch with North Korea in order to help ease the tension over its nuclear program and potential conflicts with other states. However, given the fact that North Korea is extremely hostile towards any Christian ideologies, any possible talks with North Korea and Vatican would have to be carefully structured. If such conversation takes place, starting a discussion over North Korea’s nuclear programs could be a good entry point to address the fate of North Korean Christians – for the last 15 years, North Korea has been known to be the worst place for Christians to live in. Christians are regularly imprisoned, tortured, and brutally killed for not wanting to renounce their faith. Their plight should not be forgotten in the midst of security talks. 

11/12/2017 North Korea (Crux) – A senior Vatican cardinal on Friday indicated that Rome is seeking to open a direct channel of communication with the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea, working through the Catholic bishops in South Korea, as part of a bid to help ease the tensions surrounding the possibility of a nuclear standoff with the United States.

“The dicastery is already in communication with the Korean episcopal conference to see how we may have contact also with the regime on the other side … We cannot say right now exactly when this contact will happen,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and often a go-to figure for Pope Francis as a global trouble-shooter.

“We are exploring the possibilities of speaking to them directly,” Turkson said, referring to Kim and his advisers.

Of course, given the legendary suspiciousness of outsiders in North Korea, especially any force perceived as offering an alternative worldview and set of values to the national ideology of Juche, or “self-reliance,” it may be the longest of shots that anyone close to Kim would even pick up the phone if the Vatican calls, let alone adjust their decisions in light of whatever the Vatican may have to say.

The Holy See does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, so there’s no formal exchange, and in trying to establish an informal way of breaking the ice, the Vatican will have to be conscious of not inadvertently handing the Kim regime a propaganda coup. The last thing they want is for Turkson, or some other senior official, to end up looking like Dennis Rodman in a cassock.

Nevertheless, given what’s at stake, it’s certainly worth making the effort. Perhaps Francis, as the first non-Western pope in a long time, and a figure whose sympathy for the underdog is the stuff of legend, can succeed where others have failed.

If the Vatican somehow is able to establish a line of communication with Pyongyang, obviously the conversation will start with the current crisis and what needs to be done to avoid an armed conflict between nuclear powers. It doesn’t have to end there, however, because there’s lots more to discuss, prominently including the fate of the country’s anguished Christian minority.

North Korea is widely regarded as the world’s leading persecutor of Christians. Indeed, some observers regard the isolated state as occupying a category all by itself, engaging in systematic barbarity against Christians and other perceived enemies reminiscent of the world’s most appalling chapters of inhumanity, such as Treblinka and the killing fields of Cambodia.

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