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The diplomatic corner: The G20 in the shadow of North Korea

Like many other world-viewers, I watched the G-20 unfold in beautiful settings in Seoul. World leaders passing down red carpets, handshakes and smiles. Yet all the expensive stage setting for a get-together of so many world leaders makes one ponder the costs. Apparently, Seoul shouldn't have been as expensive as the Toronto G-20. Still, it conveys even greater responsibility for this new global forum to provide solutions that make a difference for ordinary people's lives and genuinely improving global governance.

And one intractable trouble spot is looming just 70 kilometres away from the ultra-modern setting of Seoul. Here is the frontier with North Korea, heavily guarded with hundreds of thousands of soldiers lined up in Cold war confrontation style. I have visited the border area several times (also coming from the North side). The short drive from Seoul makes it feel like a quick

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Of state visits and public diplomacy…

Is soft power enhanced by state visits in this day and age, or are these official events a liability for more significant forms of influence in this day and age? One can wonder indeed about this, as President Hu Jintao nears the end of his trip to France and Portugal.

President Hu’s reception in Paris had the quality of a ritual to atone for the recent past – the treatment of the Olympic flame by demonstrators in 2008, at the height of the public emotion over Tibet.  The state decorum, the public signature of contracts demonstrating a form of tribute diplomacy,  and most of all what was clearly deemed to be publicly unmentionable – human rights and its many declinations.  It all felt clearly somewhat awkward for the principals. So there was no background spin on the French side to put all of this in perspective with previous policies, just silence. And on the side of the visitors,

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