Time for US to soften sanctions on North Korea
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.