Kim Jong Un seeks easing of sanctions before reopening US talks

WION Web Team
Seoul, South KoreaUpdated: Aug 04, 2021, 09:16 PM IST

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

This week, North Korea and South Korea reopened hotlines following a year of suspension, suggesting the former may be more responsive to engagement efforts

South Korean lawmakers said on Tuesday that Kim Jong Un-led North Korea government wants international sanctions preventing metal exports and refined fuel imports lifted before it begins denuclearisation talks with the US.

Following a briefing by Park Jie-won, head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS), lawmakers said that Pyongyang has also requested an easing of sanctions on imports of luxury goods, such as fine liquors and suits.

After suspending hotlines a year ago, the two Koreas restored channels this week, suggesting North Korea may be more receptive to engagement efforts.

"As a precondition to reopen talks, North Korea argues that the United States should allow mineral exports and imports of refined oil and necessities," Ha Tae-keung, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters, citing Park.

"I asked which necessities they want the most, and they said high-class liquors and suits were included, not just for Kim Jong Un's own consumption but to distribute to Pyongyang's elite," he said, referring to North Korea's leader.

There have been no indications from Washington that it is willing to ease sanctions ahead of any talks. Ned Price, a department spokesman, said on Monday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned to meet with Southeast Asian counterparts this week to fully implement sanctions on North Korea.

Kim Jong Un's government has been irresponsive even after Price reiterated that the US was willing to meet it "anytime, anywhere, without preconditions."

In addition to the wide range of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the United States, and others, have also imposed sanctions on North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Another spokeswoman for the State Department said, "In the meantime, in the absence of any type of engagements, United Nations sanctions on (North Korea) remain in place and we will continue to enforce them along with the international community."

North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017.

A historic meeting between Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump in 2018 raised hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Two further meetings between Trump and Kim did not result in progress in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs in return for sanctions relief.

According to Kim Byung-kee, another South Korean legislator, North Korea appears to harbour dissatisfaction with Washington's failure to offer concessions for the test freeze.

Kim cited Park as saying that readjusting sanctions might restore dialogue.

On Sunday, North Korea's sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned South Korea that its joint drills with the United States, which Pyongyang views as preparations for an invasion, could thwart efforts to restore ties between the two Koreas.

There was no mention in North Korea's state-run media on Tuesday of a new call for sanctions to be lifted in order to restart talks.

(With inputs from agencies)