Mitch Harris: Winston Peters poised to be our man on the Korean Peninsula

Peters and Tillerson
Winston Peters and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo credit: Newshub.

OPINION: We should soon know exactly what US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has planned for Winston Peters.  

There’s speculation 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 still hasn’t filled many of the regional analyst roles left vacant 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.

Last time Mr Peters was Foreign Minister, he was famously made a special envoy to North Korea by then-US Foreign Secretary Condoleezza Rice, with whom he enjoyed a very close rapport.

Most considered that Peters wasn’t able to achieve much in his talks with his North Korean counterpart 10 years ago.

But according to NZ 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 that saw Japan provide bunker fuel in exchange for North Korea 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 wouldn’t be surprising that Rex Tillerson knows about Peter’s former role and, without all the personnel he needs, should shoulder-tap the Foreign Minister again.

Listen to the full Paul Buchanan interview here. 

And that would put New Zealand centrestage in arguably one of the most pressing international issues of the moment.

Mitch Harris is host of RadioLIVE's Night Talk