N. Korea, US at im­passe over sanc­tions

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - News - BY SI­MON DENYER

North Korea has threat­ened to restart the de­vel­op­ment of its nu­clear weapons pro­gram un­less the United States lifts sanc­tions, un­der­scor­ing one of the ma­jor po­ten­tial stum­bling blocks in Wash­ing­ton’s diplo­matic out­reach with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­sisted that sanc­tions and other pres­sures re­main on North Korea un­til it dis­man­tles its nu­clear pro­gram. Kim’s regime, how­ever, has al­ways de­manded a stepby-step process of denuclearization that would in­clude lift­ing U.S. sanc­tions along the way.

In the past month, Py­ongyang has stepped up its calls for sanc­tions re­lief. The state­ment re­leased late Fri­day by

North Korea’s For­eign Min­istry is the lat­est in­di­ca­tion that ne­go­ti­a­tions over its nu­clear pro­gram have hit an im­passe.

The is­sue of sanc­tions has also cre­ated a rift be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton.

South Korea has backed the North’s call for sanc­tions re­lief, and is keen to get mov­ing on an am­bi­tious pro­gram of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing build­ing road and rail links across their heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized fron­tier.

The North Korean For­eign Min­istry warned that un­less sanc­tions were lifted and Wash­ing­ton stopped be­hav­ing “ar­ro­gantly,” North Korea could re­in­state “py­ongjin” – its pol­icy of si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­vel­op­ing its nu­clear weapons pro­gram along­side seek­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

In April, Kim de­clared that the coun­try’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram was suf­fi­ciently ad­vanced, and that the pol­icy of “py­ongjin” would be re­placed by a sin­gle fo­cus on im­prov­ing the econ­omy. Back­track­ing could reignite ten­sions with the United States.

Still, nei­ther side has turned its back on ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo told jour­nal­ists that he will meet his North Korean coun­ter­part for fur­ther talks next week, although he did not spec­ify ex­actly when, where or with whom those talks would take place.

Pom­peo met Kim in Py­ongyang last month, and says he se­cured a prom­ise to al­low Amer­i­can in­spec­tors into two nu­clear and mis­sile test­ing sites to check on their dis­man­tle­ment.

Speak­ing on “The Laura In­gra­ham Show” last week, Pom­peo said a sum­mit be­tween Kim and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump could hap­pen early next year and en­able “a sub­stan­tial break­through in tak­ing down the nu­clear threat from North Korea.”

“We’re still happy that they haven’t con­ducted a nu­clear test in an aw­fully long time and they haven’t launched a mis­sile in an aw­fully long time,” Pom­peo said, adding that Kim had made clear to him he in­tends to de­nu­cle­arize but that much more work needed to be done.

In an in­ter­view with Sean Han­nity on Fox

News on Fri­day, Pom­peo re­it­er­ated that “a lot of work” re­mains to be done, but added: “I’m con­fi­dent that we will keep the eco­nomic pres­sure in place un­til such time as Chair­man Kim ful­fills the com­mit­ment he made to Pres­i­dent Trump back in June in Sin­ga­pore.”

That oft-re­peated re­frain about pres­sure is the prob­lem in Py­ongyang’s eyes. North Korea ar­gues that Trump promised Kim in June that a new era in re­la­tions was be­gin­ning.

“The im­prove­ment of re­la­tions and sanc­tions are in­com­pat­i­ble,” the For­eign Min­istry com­men­tary said. “‘Friend­ship’ is in­com­pat­i­ble with ‘pres­sure.’ ”

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