Pyongyang’s diplomatic flurryNorth Korea says that it is “as accustomed as it is to air” to international sanctions. This indicates that after facing sanctions numerous times, it has developed a tolerance to them. Pyongyang makes a claim that no sanction will be able to make it surrender. However, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, the international society passed the UN Security Council Resolution 2270 in March which appears to be exerting acute pain on Pyongyang.
That is because three months after the implementation of what is said to be the toughest UN sanctions to date, North Korea--in order to find an escape from the sanctions regime--can be seen unfolding a diplomatic offensive. Pyongyang again proposed North-South military working level talks, and Han Song-ryol, the chief of the U.S. affairs department under North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, made contact with former U.S. statement department officials at a seminar in Stockholm, Sweden. Also, former chef of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kenji Fujimoto, made a trip to North Korea on Tuesday, and there is interest to see if he will play a role as a messenger between North Korea and Japan.
North Korea also is seen to be working on restoring relations with China. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched a friendly basketball match between a North Korean and Chinese team in Pyongyang on Monday to emphasize the two countries’ friendship. And following that, on Tuesday, Ri Su-yong, the vice chairman of the central committee of the North’s Workers’ Party of Korea, headed a large-scale delegation to visit Beijing. Ri is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit China since North Korea launched its fourth nuclear test at the beginning of the year.
But the results that have unfolded so far are disappointing. During his visit to China, Ri held talks with Song Tao, minister of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, and made clear that North Korea plans to pursue its byungjin policy of simultaneously pursuing economic development and nuclear development time, reported North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The North again revealed its ulterior motive of wanting to escape from sanctions for economic development but that it won’t give up on its nuclear programs for security reasons.
China’s response to this is cold. Chinese newspaper Huanqiu Shibao reported that Ri and Song’s meeting briefly and did not even mention North Korea’s nuclear development. If North Korea truly wants to break free from sanctions and develop into a normal country, it will first need to show a sincere compliance to the international community’s joint call for it to denuclearize. China too needs to work on convincing North Korea come to the stage for “dialogue for denuclearization” rather than “dialogue for the sake of dialogue.”
JoongAng Ilbo, June 2, Page 30