North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a belligerent column Friday accusing the U.S. of “murderous” policies against the Korean people, but ensuring that North Korea would survive up to a century of the sanctions it claims are killing its people.
The column follows a week in which confusion reigned in Seoul, where South Korean officials appeared to disagree on whether they were considering lifting sanctions placed on Pyongyang over the sinking of the Cheonan warship in 2010. South Korea’s Unification Minister clarified on Thursday that Seoul has no plans to lift sanctions.
South Korea’s Yonhap news service published excerpts of the Korean-language column, which encouraged North Koreans to continue enduring the poverty that has characterized the Kim regime.
“Our enemies are implementing a murderous blockade as a last resort after their bid to suffocate the DPRK (North Korea) by military power failed,” Rodong Sinmun claimed, without specifying which “enemies” in this case threatened the country. “Let them stick to the sanctions for the next 10 years or a hundred years. We’ll eventually overcome any sanctions and difficulties to emerge as the world’s strongest power and socialist paradise. That’s the determination of our people.”
Yonhap did not note any concessions North Korea was willing to make in exchange for having sanctions removed as per the Rodong Sinmun article. The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that it would not move to lift American sanctions, or encourage the lifting of international sanctions, on North Korea until Pyongyang could prove it had fully and irreversibly dismantled its nuclear weapons program.
While Rodong Sinmun lashed out against North Korea’s enemies, the government’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) highlighted interactions between the communist Kim regime and its allies as well as encouraging South Korea to warm ties to the north.
“The spirit of independent national reunification that calls on the north and the south to become masters in building a bright future of the Korean nation is getting evermore stronger on the Korean Peninsula as the days go by,” a KCNA column read Thursday. Several other stories boasted of ties to the Palestinian leadership and the rogue governments of China and Cuba.
Rodong Sinmun‘s attack on U.S.-led sanctions – currently crushing North Korea’s economy at unprecedented rates after the Trump administration got the United Nations Security Council to agree to impose them multilaterally – appears less than a week since the departure of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Pyongyang, where he claimed to have engaged in productive conversations with his North Korean counterparts.
“As President Trump said, there are many steps along the way and we took one of them today. It was another step forward. So this is, I think, a good outcome for all of us,” Pompeo said of the meeting upon arriving in South Korea following the talks. While he refused to offer any specifics regarding what the two sides discussed, Pompeo noted that Kim Jong-un, who he met with personally, agreed to allow international inspection of nuclear development sites. He did not specify what Kim wanted in return, or what kind of international inspection Kim had agreed to permit.
“As soon as we get it logistically worked out, Chairman Kim said he’s ready to – ready to allow them [inspectors] to come in, and there’s a lot of logistics that will be required to execute that, but when we get them we’ll put them on the ground,” Pompeo said.
He mentioned among possible inspection sites the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, home to six of the nation’s nuclear bomb tests. North Korea claimed to have destroyed the facility in a ceremony last year, inviting a small number of international reporters to attend.
Pompeo did not mention any specifics on lifting sanctions. That topic came up later this week in South Korea, where Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters that Seoul was considering lifting sanctions it had unilaterally placed on North Korea related to the 2010 Cheonan sinking. On Thursday, a day after her remarks were made public, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon rejected them entirely, insisting that those sanctions would only be lifted if North Korea takes “action regarding the issue of the Cheonan warship.”
President Donald Trump appeared little concerned about the sanctions when asked on Wednesday. “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Trump told reporters at the White House, outraging some in South Korean politics.
Conservative South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo added to domestic concerns about the U.S. with a report Thursday claiming that Pompeo had “furiously harangued” Kang, his counterpart in the South Korean government, in September over President Moon Jae-in’s policies to thaw relations between the two countries.
“Pompeo was incensed by plans to begin reconnecting severed inter-Korean railways and a cross-border military agreement that aims at reducing arms along the border,” according to the newspaper.
Moon has not reversed his policies to bring the two Koreans together. On the contrary, the president made a statement on Friday once again urging a formal end to the Korean War, technically still ongoing since hostilities ended in 1953.
“Issuing an end-of-war declaration is something that I had ample discussions with the U.S. side, including President Trump,” Moon said, suggesting the declaration would be most beneficial “at the earliest time.” Such a declaration would require both America’s and China’s approval, since both are active participants in the war on either side, and would call into question the future of America’s military presence in South Korea.