Time for US to soften sanc­tions on North Korea

Global Times - Weekend - - EDITORIAL - By Wang Wen­wen

The head­line-grab­bing Korean Penin­sula has been peace­ful the past few months. With pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments in sight, it is time to dis­cuss lift­ing sanc­tions on North Korea on a grad­ual ba­sis.

The sanc­tions adopted by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil were aimed at prevent­ing North Korea from de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons and urg­ing the coun­try to em­bark on a path of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

Dur­ing the sum­mit be­tween North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in ear­lier this month, North Korea agreed in prin­ci­ple to dis­man­tle its main nu­clear weapons fa­cil­ity at Yong­byon on the con­di­tion of re­cip­ro­cal US cor­re­spond­ing mea­sures. The good­will ges­ture de­liv­ered by Py­ongyang, though at its very early stage, is an en­cour­ag­ing sign. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity would be wise to of­fer the coun­try some po­lit­i­cal in­cen­tives and ap­pro­pri­ate strate­gic buf­fer room.

The pri­mary, ur­gent is­sue is to avoid a re­ver­sal of the pos­i­tive trend of the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion process on the penin­sula. The dead­lock needs to be bro­ken be­tween Wash­ing­ton’s pro­posed ap­proach of “com­plete, ver­i­fi­able, ir­re­versible dis­man­tle­ment” of North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram and the grad­ual process of aban­don­ment of its nu­clear pro­gram in­sisted on by Py­ongyang.

North Korea is strug­gling to re­vive its econ­omy bat­tered by sanc­tions. UN sanc­tions and the US pres­sure on North Korea have se­verely hit the coun­try’s econ­omy which saw its steep­est de­cline in 20 years in 2017. This has trig­gered hu­man­i­tar­ian prob­lems in North Korea.

If Kim is re­ally de­ter­mined to im­prove peo­ple’s liveli­hoods and get his coun­try out of in­ter­na­tional plight, he should have room for ne­go­ti­a­tions on the nu­clear is­sue. As there is lit­tle like­li­hood that North Korea will re­turn to its past hard-line path, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity can make use of the chance to pro­mote peace by think­ing about lift­ing sanc­tions on the coun­try.

The per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil can re­search the pos­si­bil­ity of the process. The UN can think about eas­ing tem­porar­ily, for in­stance one or two years, a part of their sanc­tions to re­lieve North Korea’s do­mes­tic pres­sure un­til the even­tual with­drawal of its sanc­tions based on the ac­tual per­for­mance of North Korea.

US sanc­tions on North Korea should be in ac­cor­dance with the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. The US should not im­pose uni­lat­eral sanc­tions at will, nor is it en­ti­tled to do so. The US should not ex­ploit UN sanc­tions on Py­ongyang to reach its own strate­gic goals.

China ad­heres to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions and re­gards lon­glast­ing peace on the Korean Penin­sula as its top pri­or­ity.

A sec­ond sum­mit be­tween Kim and Don­ald Trump might be held in Oc­to­ber. Hope­fully col­lab­o­ra­tion among all sides will set the course for a new phase of global in­ter­ac­tion be­tween North Korea and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

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