Why North Korea wants to lift sanctions first

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Days after outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in made perhaps his last ambitious attempt to diplomatically resolve the deadlock over North Korea’s nuclear program, the North on Friday rejected his call for a declaration ending the Korean War, saying he has no interest in political declarations unless they provide much-needed relief from crippling economic sanctions. Nuclear diplomacy between the United States and North Korea has stalled over disagreements over a relaxation of US-led sanctions in exchange for moves toward denuclearization by the North.

Analysts say North Korea is trying to use Moon’s desire for an inter-Korean engagement to pressure South Korea to obtain concessions from Washington on its behalf.

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WHY IS MOON PROPOSING A PEACE DECLARATION?

The 1950-1953 Korean War, in which North Korea and allied China clashed with South Korea and US-led UN forces, ended in an armistice, but there has never been a peace treaty.

In a speech this week at the United Nations General Assembly, Moon called for a declaration of an end to the war while expressing hope for an early resumption of talks between the United States and North Korea. He said such a declaration between the leaders of Korea, the United States and China would help achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon’s proposal was an attempt to break the deadlock as he neared the end of his term in May 2022. North Korea had initially supported South Korea’s call for an end-of-war declaration. when Seoul helped organize a summit between its leader, Kim Jong. One, and former US President Donald Trump in 2018, in which Kim aimed to leverage his nuclear weapons in exchange for economic benefits.

Such a declaration of end of war would make it easier for North Korea to demand that the United States withdraw its 28,500 troops from South Korea and ease sanctions.

But North Korea lost interest in the idea after talks between Kim and Trump failed at their second summit in February 2019. The Americans rejected North Korea’s request for major sanctions relief. in exchange for the dismantling of an aging nuclear installation, for a partial surrender of its capacities.

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WHY IS NORTH KOREA REFUSING MOON’S OFFER?

Kim’s powerful sister Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song released separate statements on Friday rejecting Moon’s proposal.

Kim Yo Jong’s comments were directed at Moon while Ri’s were aimed at the Biden administration, but they communicated essentially the same message – that North Korea is not interested in a declaration of end of war unless Washington does not initially reject its “hostile” policies, a reference to economic sanctions led by the United States and its military activities with the ally of South Korea.

Ri said such a declaration would be “premature” given US efforts to strengthen its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which North Korea has increasingly used to justify expanding its own nuclear programs. and missiles.

Kim Yo Jong, who manages inter-Korean affairs, used softer language towards South Korea, saying the North was ready to resume “constructive” talks on improving bilateral relations if the South abandoned its hostility and “double play standards”.

It clearly demanded that Seoul do more to persuade Washington to come up with “concrete actions to resume negotiations, be it easing sanctions or suspending joint US-Korean military exercises,” than Korea. North sees it as a repeat invasion, Yang said. Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

North Korea’s statements on Friday show that it doesn’t expect Biden to accept Moon’s appeal, said Park Won Gon, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“The North still has nothing to lose with the South once again proposing an end-of-war declaration and this has essentially given Seoul ‘homework’ to pressure Washington to respond to its demands,” he said. declared Park. “The North could try to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, or create a divide in public opinion in South Korea by putting pressure on Seoul over the state of inter-Korean relations.”

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WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR NUCLEAR TALKS?

The North Korean nuclear issue receded from the center of attention at this year’s United Nations General Assembly with new global challenges such as the coronavirus, rising U.S.-Chinese tensions and the uncertain future of the ‘Afghanistan.

But North Korea hates to be ignored, and its recent missile tests after months of relative calm have sparked speculation that Kim is once again displaying his military might to wrest concessions from Washington if the long-standing talks over his program nuclear resumes.

Some experts say Kim faces serious domestic challenges, with border closures linked to the pandemic further hurting an economy already plagued by decades of mismanagement and international sanctions. They say the sense of alarm could push North Korea to step up weapons testing in the coming months to put pressure on the world before proposing negotiations to extract aid, at least until that time. that China starts pushing for calm ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics early next year.

This month, North Korea tested a new cruise missile it intends to arm with nuclear warheads and demonstrated the launch of ballistic missiles from rail cars as it expands its arsenal to shorter-range weapons threatening allies of the United States, South Korea and Japan.

“Even during a period of pandemic containment, North Korea continues to modernize its military, including its nuclear weapons and various means of delivering them,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha, who sees little room for Moon. to advance its peace agenda. “The Biden administration has repeatedly offered dialogue and humanitarian engagement, but the Kim regime appears to want sanctions relief and de facto nuclear recognition in return for avoiding a crisis.”


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