Seoul applies pressure on Pyongyang’s allies

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Seoul applies pressure on Pyongyang’s allies

South Korea is stepping up its diplomatic pressure on countries that are friendly with North Korea to help curb the regime’s nuclear and missile programs.

This week, President Park Geun-hye is visiting Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, countries that have had friendly relations with North Korea and are also suspected of conducting military or arms trade deals with the regime.

Uganda recently had police and military cooperation with North Korea, according to a UN Panel of Experts report submitted to the UN Security Council on Feb. 24.

According to the panel, Uganda confirmed that until last December, North Korea provided training for 45 of its police officers, including 19 security instructors for paramilitary police. The report also said that Pyongyang provided such training by “exploiting … countries’ incomplete understanding” of UN resolutions.

Ethiopia, likewise, has been suspected of engaging in arms trade deals with Pyongyang, as part of a defense relationship that dates back to the 1980s. The 2015 report further notes that Ethiopia was suspected of violating the arms embargo to buy ammunition from the North’s top arms dealer, Korea Mineral Trading General Corporation.

The international community has banded together to penalize Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test in January and subsequent long-range missile launch in February, and on March 2 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2270, its toughest-to-date sanctions on Pyongyang.

To ensure the thorough implementation of the resolution, South Korea has continued to strengthen its cooperation with China, Pyongyang’s traditional ally, with President Park’s summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 31, on the sidelines of Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. That was followed by South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s rare participation in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence (CICA) Building Measures in Asia forum in Beijing in late April.

The CICA is a joint declaration made on April 28 that condemned in the “strongest terms” North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and its ballistic missile provocations, including its Feb. 7 long-range missile launch, reaffirming that it would “thoroughly and fully” implement UNSC Resolution 2270.

Yun also had a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the conference, and the two sides agreed to cooperate closely with each other for a thorough implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

In May, President Park made her first trip to Iran, a country that has traditionally maintained friendly ties with Pyongyang and has long been suspected of cooperating in the development of missile and nuclear programs. Park requested Iran’s help to implement the UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

In a joint press conference after this meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country is opposed to any nuclear weapons development on the Korean Peninsula.

Last Thursday, Park held a summit with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in Seoul, where the two leaders likewise discussed the North Korean nuclear issue. Elbegdorj said that Mongolia had called on North Korea to comply with international sanctions, expressing support for Korea’s efforts to denuclearize Pyongyang. He also agreed with Park’s remark that reunification is the only way to resolve North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Mongolia was one of the first countries to forge diplomatic ties with North Korea, and the two countries traditionally have maintained friendly relations. Elbegdorj is one of the rare world leaders to have visited Pyongyang under the Kim Jong-un regime in 2013.

During his visit in October that year, he said “no tyranny lasts forever” in a speech to students at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. The bold speech, which also noted that Mongolia is a nuclear-weapons free state and is opposed to capital punishment, reportedly led to a souring of bilateral relations with Pyongyang. Park will next travel to Ethiopia from May 25 to May 28, Uganda from May 28 to May 30 and Kenya from May 30 to June 1. She then heads to France, where the nuclear issue will also be discussed during her summit with French President Francois Hollande.

North Korea is also looking to engage in a series of diplomatic engagements, and Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, visited the central African country of Equatorial Guinea last Friday. Seoul officials see this as an attempt to counter the stringent sanctions recently placed upon it.

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