North Korea nuclear crisis

North Koreans frustrated about delay to end-of-war declaration, says son of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung

China’s input needed to move process forward, official says, adding that Pyongyang wants sanctions lifted before abandoning nuclear project

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 11:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 11:42pm

North Korean officials are frustrated about the delay of an official declaration ending the Korean war, and China will need to join peace talks to stabilise the denuclearisation process, according to a son of a former South Korean president.

Kim Hong-gul, chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation and son of the late Kim Dae-jung – who introduced South Korea’s “sunshine policy”, designed to soften Pyongyang’s attitude towards Seoul – told the South China Morning Post that officials in the North had expressed their disappointment during his trip to the reclusive state’s capital last week.

“North Korean officials said they are frustrated about the delay and asked whether there is a valid reason for such slow progress,” Kim said, noting Pyongyang seemed to believe it had made significant concessions and expected reciprocal action.

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“The North Koreans initially wanted a peace treaty but they are now asking for an end-of-war declaration,” he said, adding that they wanted the declaration to come first to speed up the denuclearisation process.

China’s special representative on the Korean peninsula, Kong Xuanyou, flew to Pyongyang on Wednesday and is expected to exchange views with its officials about talks between the US and North Korea on denuclearisation.

The two Koreas pledged in April that they would work together this year to officially end the war, which was halted by an armistice in 1953.

The Panmunjom Declaration said the two Koreas would achieve this through either trilateral talks between the North, South and the US, or four-party talks including China.

“The North Koreans also complained at how Seoul is being too conscious of the UN sanctions regime and is somewhat passive in reviving inter-Korean economic projects,” Kim said.

Pyongyang was not happy with Seoul’s reluctant attitude towards the easing of economic sanctions, he said.

North Korea’s economy shrank 3.5 per cent in 2017 from the previous year – the biggest contraction since 1997 and most likely because of the sanctions regime, South Korea’s central bank estimated last week.

Satellite images released by the North Korea monitoring group 38 North earlier this week also suggested that the restive state appears to have dismantled its key intercontinental ballistic missile facilities at Sohae, its main satellite launching station.

“North Korea will give up more only if sanctions are lifted, even partially,” Kim said. “A lifting of sanctions would give the regime the legitimacy to persuade its people to completely give up its nuclear capability to accelerate its economic development.”

At an undisclosed briefing last week, Seoul asked members of the UN Security Council for an exception to the sanctions to speed up inter-Korean economic projects.

Kim also acknowledged Beijing’s role in the peace process.

“Although the North Koreans did not mention anything about China during my last trip, I believe it would be not be sensible to exclude Beijing from the process,” he said.

“It would make it difficult to proceed to the end-of-war declaration without China’s participation.

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Seoul must put its efforts into including Beijing, and even Tokyo, to seek their support and cooperation in the peace-building process.

“The inter-Korean summit and summit of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were big diplomatic successes, but what comes next is more important,” he said.

“We have some homework to do to maintain the peace process.”