Fresh hurdles in N.Korea dialogue process - GulfToday

Fresh hurdles in N.Korea dialogue process

Kim imposter

Kim Jong Un. File

When Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea last week and shake hands with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, hopes were raised that he would still be able to convince Pyongyang to move on the path of denuclearisation despite two years of roller-coaster negotiations.

However, things are evidently not moving in the right direction.

In a quick shift in tone, Pyongyang’s delegation to the United Nations stated on Wednesday that the US continued to be “obsessed with sanctions,” and also accused Washington of being “hell-bent on hostile acts.”

It has complained that while Trump invited Kim to hold talks, the United States had also sent a letter to all United Nations member-states urging them to send back North Korean workers.

The delegation claimed the letter — also signed by Britain, France and Germany — was sent on June 29, the same day Trump tweeted that he would like to shake Kim’s hand during his visit to the Korean peninsula.

“What can’t be overlooked is the fact that this joint letter game was carried out by the permanent mission of the United States to the United Nations under the instruction of the State Department, on the very same day when President Trump proposed (for) the summit meeting,” said the press statement from the North Korean mission.

As per United Nations estimates, tens of thousands of North Koreans are sent abroad every year, mostly to China and Russia, working in “slave-like conditions” to generate hard currency for Pyongyang.

North Korea has been hit with repeated rounds of crippling sanctions — imposed by the United Nations and countries such as the US — over its nuclear-weapons programme.

These include trying to halt the trade in luxury goods as a way of targeting the country’s elite.

North Korea’s exports to China, its main market, dropped nearly 90 per cent last year, according to data from Beijing, and a report this week by the Korea Development Institute said sanctions had put the country on a path for economic crisis.

Since the Hanoi summit collapse, Pyongyang has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach, and last month fired short-range missiles for the first time since November 2017.

In recent months Pyongyang has also slammed Trump’s top aides — National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and demanded their removal from talks.

Ahead of February’s failed summit in Hanoi, American officials had indeed raised the possibility that while sanctions would remain, they might be willing to take interim steps such as boosting humanitarian aid or opening liaison offices.

US officials, however, rejected North Korea’s offer to dismantle its reactor complex at Yongbyon in exchange for wide-ranging sanctions relief.

Since then, North Korea has intensified its calls for sanctions to be withdrawn, signalling that while lesser steps might be welcome, they would not be enough to persuade Pyongyang to give up nuclear assets.

The North has yet to provide an accounting of its nuclear stockpile, let alone begin the process of dismantling its arsenal. Key points of contention between the two sides remain.

What is apparent is that the so-called “excellent relationship” between Trump and Kim has so far failed to yield the desired results especially on the crucial aspect of denuclearisation.

The dialogue process is visibly heading in an uncertain direction and that is indeed a major cause for worry.