Tue, July 05, 2022

perspective

Denuclearisation, not smiles, test of North Korean sincerity


It is vital that the international community firmly maintains pressure on North Korea through sanctions and continues efforts to start negotiations toward the country’s abandonment of its nuclear and missile development programs, without being misled by Pyongyang’s charm offensive.

Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party Central Committee who visited South Korea for the Pyeongchang Olympics, held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and said the North has “ample intentions of holding talks with the United States”. Moon also raised hopes for possible contact between Washington and Pyongyang.
North Korea is trying to stage a dialogue by cajoling the United States as well as South Korea. There is no doubt that North Korea aims to defuse tensions, reduce the possibility of being attacked by the United States and ease sanctions. There are also signs that Pyongyang intends to buy time to complete nuclear and missile programmes.
It is reasonable that US President Donald Trump gave a warning, saying, “We want to talk also, only under the right conditions”. It must not be forgotten that North Korea had failed to keep its word to abandon its nuclear programme every single time it agreed to do so during talks with the United States over the past more than 20 years.
North Korea’s clearly shown intention to denuclearise would be a prerequisite to starting full-fledged talks. If the United States makes preliminary contact with North Korea, it should convey its stance of maintaining maximum pressure on North Korea, including military options, until Pyongyang completes its denuclearisation.
There is the possibility that North Korea will propose a freeze on its nuclear tests and missile launches and seek something in return. However, the freeze will leave the North Korean military threat as it is. It is essential to keep an eye on the country’s swaying moves.
A matter that cannot be overlooked is Pyongyang’s continued smuggling of refined petroleum products and other items by getting past a net of sanctions. Ship-to-ship transfers of banned items to North Korean vessels at sea have been confirmed.
The Trump administration has imposed new unilateral sanctions to pressure North Korea, such as by suspending maritime, trading and other companies engaged in maritime smuggling from conducting dollar-based international trade. The sanctions also target 28 cargo ships, including those from North Korea, China and Singapore.
Smuggled goods are certain to have been diverted to the North Korean military. This can be seen to suggest that North Korea has been driven into a corner by trade restrictions as a result of the sanctions.
The Maritime Self-Defence Force has carried out surveillance activities to combat smuggling. The US government is considering measures to strengthen long-term surveillance, including the dispatch of patrol vessels from its coast guard.
It is hoped that Japan, the United States, South Korea and Australia, among other countries, will reinforce cooperation and establish an international system to eradicate such “ship-to-ship transfers”.
Regarding the unilateral sanctions by the United States, China’s opposition, calling it “one-sided”, is unreasonable. China, which holds the lifeline of the North Korean economy, must ratchet up pressure on North Korea and urge the country to change its policy.
Japan, the United States and other countries also need to urge Russia to work together on the international net encircling North Korea.

Published : March 03, 2018

By : The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN Tokyo