26 Dec 2017

North Korea likely to pursue talks, South says

9:19 pm on 26 December 2017

South Korea predicted on Tuesday that North Korea would look to open negotiations with the United States over its weapons programmes next year and pursue at least some rapprochement with Seoul in an optimistic government outlook.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during the 5th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during the 5th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea. Photo: AFP / RNZ

The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new, tougher sanctions on North Korea on Friday for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, a move the North branded an economic blockade and act of war.

"North Korea will seek negotiation with United States, while continuing to pursue its effort to be recognised as a de facto nuclear-possessing country," South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a report, without offering any reasons for its conclusion.

Tensions have risen over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of years of UN Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.

People watching as coverage of an earlier ICBM missile test is displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang in July.

People watching as coverage of an earlier ICBM missile test is displayed on a screen in a public square in Pyongyang in July. Photo: AFP

US diplomats have made clear they are seeking a diplomatic solution but President Donald Trump has derided talks as useless and said Pyongyang must commit to giving up its nuclear weapons before any talks can begin.

In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea's foreign ministry said the United States was terrified by its nuclear force and was getting "more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country".

China, the North's lone major ally, and Russia both supported the latest sanctions, while on Monday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called for all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tension.

In its 2018 forecast, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it believed the North would eventually find ways to blunt the effects of the sanctions, which seek to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.

"Counter measures will be orchestrated to deal with the effects, including cuts in trade volume and foreign currency inflow, lack of supplies, and reduced production in each part of the economy," the report said.

The latest round of sanctions was prompted by the Nov ember test of what North Korea said was an intercontinental ballistic missile that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

The Joongang Ilbo Daily newspaper, citing an unnamed South Korean government official, reported on Tuesday that North Korea could also be preparing to launch a satellite into space.

Experts have said such launches are likely aimed at further developing the North's ballistic missile technology, and as such would be prohibited under UN resolutions.

The North Korean Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Monday that "peaceful space development is a legitimate right of a sovereign state".

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, the United States and Japan, and says its weapons are necessary to counter US aggression.

The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, and regularly carries out military exercises with the South.

US President Donald Trump declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism.

US President Donald Trump declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism. Photo: AFP

The sanctions

The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue and drafted this new set of sanctions:

  • Deliveries of petrol products will be capped at 500,000 barrels a year, and crude oil at four million barrels a year.
  • All North Korean nationals working abroad will have to return home within 24 months under the proposals, restricting a vital source of foreign currency.
  • There will also be a ban on exports of North Korean goods, such as machinery and electrical equipment.
  • The UN sanctions came in response to Pyongyang's 28 November firing of a ballistic missile.

US President Donald Trump has previously threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the US president as "mentally deranged".

The US has been imposing sanctions on North Korea for more than a decade with little success.

- Reuters / BBC

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