Pyongyang tests world’s patience again - GulfToday

Pyongyang tests world’s patience again

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

Things are evidently not moving in the right direction as far as the denuclearisation talks between the United States and North Korea are concerned.

The so-called “excellent relationship” between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has failed to yield the desired results so far.

Merely hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in South Korea for talks, North Korea welcomed the envoy to Seoul by firing two missiles.

That turned out to be Pyongyang’s second launch in less than a week as it seeks to up the ante in deadlocked nuclear negotiations with Washington.

Pyongyang is visibly trying to send a strong message of defiance as it also carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles on Saturday, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.

A specific note should be taken of the fact that the North had not previously fired a missile since November 2017, shortly before a rapid diplomatic thaw eased high tensions on the peninsula and paved the way for a historic first meeting between its leader Kim and Trump.

But their second summit in Vietnam in February broke up without an agreement rolling back Pyongyang’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief or even a joint statement, leaving the North frustrated.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has attempted to tone down the reaction by asserting that Pyongyang’s latest move had an element of protest and is a pressuring action to steer the nuclear talks in a direction it desires.

Nonetheless, he has also cautioned that whatever North Korea’s intentions might have been, it could make negotiations more difficult.

The Kim-Trump summit broke down in February without a deal, after Pyongyang demanded immediate relief from sanctions but the two sides disagreed over what the North was prepared to give up in return.

Russia insists on sanctions being eased, while the US blames it on trying to help Pyongyang evade some of the measures.

Earlier, Pyongyang had also demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from the stalled nuclear talks, accusing him of derailing the process.

It is increasingly obvious that Kim is seeking an upper hand in future talks. Since March 2018, the North Korean leader has held four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, two with Trump and one with Vietnam’s president.

The confrontational mood between the two sides is also palpable from the latest demand by the United States that North Korea dismantle all political prison camps and release all political prisoners, who it claims number between 80,000 and 120,000.

In remarks to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mark Cassayre, US charge d’affaires, has also urged North Korean authorities to allow aid workers in the country unrestricted movement and access to populations in need.

North Korean ambassador Han Tae Song told the 47-member forum that people’s rights to life and fundamental freedoms were fully ensured in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea but that sanctions were hampering their enjoyment.

The claims and counter-claims are becoming part of a daily story making the world wonder in which direction the talks are heading.  

All parties should see to it that the fundamental goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is achieved. Any other path could prove dangerous.

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