Sanctions may hit North in March

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Sanctions may hit North in March

As the strongest-ever international sanctions begin to take effect, North Korea is expected to start suffering from severe economic difficulties around March next year, a state-run think tank said Monday.

“In addition to further toughened sanctions, an increase in North Korea’s investment in conventional forces in the aftermath of military pressure stemming from the [Korean] deployment of American strategic assets is forecast to hit the North Korean economy seriously sometime after March next year,” the Institute for National Security Strategy said in its 2018 prediction for North Korea. The institute is a research arm of the National Intelligence Service.

“March has been pinned for the timing for the [United Nations Security Sanction] Resolution 2375 adopted in September to take effect, given the UN sanctions committee’s position that the effects of sanctions begin to be seen six to 12 months after their introduction,” the institute noted.

Despite expected economic difficulties, it remains to be seen whether North Korea will reverse its position clinging to nuclear weapons development, according to the think tank.

“North Korea may put further focus on building the economy while holding on to its policy line of becoming the most powerful nuclear state,” it said.

North Korea, however, is presumed to use South Korea’s hosting of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics as an opportunity to offer dialogue with South Korea, the institute predicted.

It also forecast that North Korea could go for additional military provocations if the fence-mending attempt ends in failure, possibly a test to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile as far as possible, a test launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile or even its seventh nuclear test.

On whether the North would join the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea, the institute said, “All the steps for participation have been completed except for [leader] Kim Jong-un’s final decision.”

In 2018, Kim would continue to ostracize and purge military elites and high-ranking officials, the institute also predicted.

“In the event of severe economic difficulties due to sanctions on North Korea, economic elites could possibly fall victim [to purging] as they are made to take responsibility,” according to the institute. North Korean Premier Park Pong-ju could be a possible target, it said.

As part of ongoing purging efforts, Hwang Pyong-so, previously chief of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, has been steeply demoted and is currently working at a government department, but he retained membership with the ruling party, while Kim Won-hong, formerly deputy chief at the military bureau, is working at a farm without any possibility of reinstatement, according to the think tank.

The national spy agency earlier said the two ranking military officials were punished for “impure” acts.

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