North Korea says Trump in­tends to lift sanc­tions against regime

China is in­di­cat­ing it wants UN sanc­tions to be lifted soon

Financial Chronicle - - AROUND THE GLOBE - ANDY SHARP

NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Don­ald Trump of­fered to lift sanc­tions against his regime when they met Tues­day in Sin­ga­pore, state me­dia re­ported, a claim that con­trasts with the US pres­i­dent’s rhetoric that the eco­nomic stric­tures would re­main.

The re­port from the Korean Cen­tral News Agency, which was pub­lished af­ter Kim re­turned home from his meet­ing, noted Trump’s vow to sus­pend US mil­i­tary drills in South Korea. It also said Trump com­mit­ted to un­spec­i­fied “se­cu­rity guar­an­tees” for Py­ongyang, and to “lift sanc­tions against it”.

The last point was note­wor­thy since it went fur­ther than Trump did in his pub­lic com­ments dur­ing and af­ter the meet­ing. Trump said sanc­tions would stay, at least un­til the iso­lated na­tion moved to give up its nu­clear ar­se­nal. But there have been slight dif­fer­ences in re­cent com­ments among se­nior US of­fi­cials as to whether that means North Korea must first com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion – and have it ver­i­fied – or if some good­will steps would be enough.

Trump him­self in­di­cated some wig­gle room, say­ing sanc­tions re­lief could come even be­fore the “com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula” – how­ever that’s ul­ti­mately de­fined by both sides – is ver­i­fied. “I hope it’s go­ing to be soon,” he said Tues­day at an hour­long brief­ing. “At a cer­tain point, I ac­tu­ally look for­ward to tak­ing them off.” The White House didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond Wed­nes­day to a re­quest for com­ment on the KCNA re­port.

The state­ment signed Tues­day by Trump and Kim – af­ter the first meet­ing be­tween sit­ting lead­ers of the two coun­tries ever – was thin on de­tail aside from re­peat­ing North Korea’s prom­ise to move to­ward “com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion” and Trump’s prom­ise of a se­cu­rity guar­an­tee. It men­tioned a plan for se­nior of­fi­cials, led on the US side by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, to keep talk­ing.

Trump sev­eral times said there were things he and Kim talked about, and agreed on, that were not con­tained in the for­mal doc­u­ment. That in­cluded the US de­ci­sion to halt its drills, al­though it’s un- clear which ones and for how long. Trump added that Kim told him sep­a­rately that North Korea had dis­man­tled a mis­sile en­gine test site. So if any prom­ises were made on sanc­tions, they were not made pub­licly.

Trump faces Ja­panese pres­sure to keep sanc­tions in place, and a push by China to lift them. A Chi- nese of­fi­cial al­ready sig­naled the coun­try may ask the United Na­tions to lift or ad­just the penal­ties, the ba­sis for the “max­i­mum pres­sure” cam­paign Trump has used to push Kim to­ward dis­ar­ma­ment. China, as North Korea’s neigh­bor and most im­por­tant trad­ing part­ner, also could pro­vide re­lief to Kim by throt­tling down sanc­tions en­force­ment on its own.

The sanc­tions “need to stay in place un­til North Korea ver­i­fi­ably and ir­re­versibly dis­man­tles its nu­clear ar­se­nal,” said An­drea Berger of the Mid­dle­bury In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Mon­terey. “But there’s a cer­tain amount of po­lit­i­cal flex­i­bil­ity in sanc­tions re­lief in an era where Trump is at the helm.”

There is ev­i­dence that sanc­tions have hurt North Korea. And aside from the UN penal­ties, which were beefed up un­der Trump, coun­tries like Japan, South Korea and the US have their own uni­lat­eral sanc­tions. Kim has also spo­ken this year of his de­sire to mod­ernise North Korea’s tiny agri­cul­ture­based econ­omy, which has very lit­tle man­u­fac­tur­ing and few links with the out­side world.

The main cross­ing point from China into North Korea is the city of Dan­dong. About 80 per cent of North Korea’s in­ter­na­tional trade is with China, much of it through the fron­tier city filled with shop­keep­ers, smug­glers and real- es­tate deal­ers whose for­tunes rise and fall with the trade across the Yalu River.

Trump said Tues­day the China-North Korea border had al­ready be­come more por­ous, al­though he added “that’s OK” Traders who live on the border have said Bei­jing – at least un­til re­cently – has been fully implementing sanc­tions, and that has im­pacted busi­ness and the move­ment of peo­ple.

Trump faces Ja­panese pres­sure to keep sanc­tions in place, and a push by China to lift them

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