World View: North Korea Plays Hardball to Get Sanctions Lifted

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory

This morning’s key headlines from

  • North Korea plays hardball to get sanctions lifted
  • North Korea – South Korea reunification talks continue

North Korea plays hardball to get sanctions lifted

Kim Jong-un at a mushroom farm (AFP/KCNA)
Kim Jong-un at a mushroom farm (AFP/KCNA)

Now that the U.S. midterm elections have taken place, there is no longer any reason to pretend that North Korea is ever going to denuclearize, so North Korea’s child dictator may be taking hard new steps to pressure the Trump administration to get what he wants: Lifting the sanctions with no requirement to denuclearize.

Last week, North Korea’s lead negotiator Kim Yong-chol refused to show up for a scheduled meeting on Thursday with the U.S. chief negotiator, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This cancellation was apparently unexpected and the State Dept. scrambled to say that the meeting had been postponed and would take place “when our respective schedules permit.”

President Trump himself kept up the pretense last week by saying: “We’re in no rush. We’re in no hurry. … We’re very happy how it’s going with North Korea. We think it’s going fine.”

This comes at a time when North Korea is becoming increasingly belligerent in threatening to resume nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development if the United States continued to refuse to back down on sanctions. China and Russia are also both pressuring the United States to agree to ease sanctions.

North Korea is taking no real steps toward denuclearization, even refusing to take the simple step of providing a list of all its nuclear development sites. The symbolic steps that it was taking, including dismantling a missile test site that it did not need, have apparently ended, based on satellite imagery. And a key facility in the process of creating nuclear-weapons-grade uranium, is still running.

Many people believe that North Korea is continuing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, lacking only the ability to openly test the developments. Many people also believe that they have no intention of stopping that development under any circumstances, but still hoping that international pressure will force the Trump administration to left sanctions.

For the time being, the denuclearization pretense is continuing on both sides. Once the North concludes that the Trump administration cannot be pressured to lift the sanctions, then they will probably also conclude that there is no reason not to resume public nuclear and missile testing.

North Korea has been playing hardball recently and that may indicate that the decision to resume testing is not far off. The “North Korea crisis” has been out of the news for a while, but one way or another expect the crisis to be in the news again soon, especially now that the midterms are over. The Hill and The Diplomat and International Business Times and Daily Beast

North Korea-South Korea reunification talks continue

The office of South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in sent a gift of 200 tons of tangerines to North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un on Sunday in return for a gift of mushrooms from the North. This gift is part of a separate, but related, negotiation track going on between South and North Korea.

More significant than the tangerines is that the North and South Korean military completed withdrawing troops and firearms from 22 front-line guard posts on Saturday. There are over 100 guard posts on both sides, and the plan is to disarm almost all of them by next year.

The Koreas have also been clearing mines from front-line areas and plan to start in April their first-ever joint search for remains of

Moon would like to push ahead with his more ambitious plans for engagement, such as reconnecting railways and roads across the border and normalizing operations at a jointly run factory park. However, those plans would violate the existing UN sanctions. soldiers killed during the Korean War.

Moon Jae-in has made it clear that he is extremely anxious to normalize relations with the North, with the eventual goal of reunification, and that he is willing to concede almost anything to the North to accomplish this. This is true even though the North has never repudiated its plan to conquer the South by force and reunify the two Koreas under control of the North. North Korea has an unbroken record of lying and deception about almost everything and removing the guard posts may be a goodwill gesture to the South, but it also makes it easier for the North’s million-man army to cross into the South and that is what the North wants.

The North-South negotiation track may be separate from the denuclearization negotiations, but they do affect one another. With North Korea now playing hardball in the denuclearization negotiations, which are completely stalled anyway, South Korean analysts now believe that a planned trip by Kim Jong-un to Seoul in December is becoming increasingly less likely.

According to one South Korean analyst:

South Korea will continue to try to make room for the US and North Korea to continue negotiations and ease tensions between the countries through Kim Jong-un’s visit to Seoul.

But for Kim, visiting Seoul without any progress in the US-North Korea relations could be a burden because it would likely draw more opposition from South Korea’s conservatives and more skepticism from the US. I think Kim will decide on his visit to Seoul after the high-level meeting between Pompeo and Kim.

Assuming, of course, that the latter meeting takes place.

However, another South Korean analyst said that there is another way to convince Kim to make his promised visit to Seoul: “I think North Korea would want to come to Seoul on the back of some progress in its relations with the US so that it could gain economic rewards – economic assistance, for example – from South Korea.” Korea Herald and AP and Russia Today and Korea Herald

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, North Korea, Kim Jong-un, South Korea, Moon Jae-in, Kim Yong-chol, Mike Pompeo
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