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North Korea

North Korea calls on US to ‘immediately lift’ sanctions that ‘do more harm than good’

  • Senior official tells security forum in Beijing the measures are ‘confidence-destroying’ and hinder the denuclearisation process
  • Song Il-hyok says situation on peninsula has changed and ties between two Koreas are improving
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 9:30pm

A senior North Korean official used a regional security forum in Beijing on Thursday to call for Washington to “immediately lift” US-led sanctions against Pyongyang, describing them as “confidence-destroying measures” harming the denuclearisation process.

“[The US should] immediately lift the sanctions and the hindrance to confidence-building. Those countries joining the UN sanctions against [North Korea] should pay attention to the positive developments on the Korean peninsula,” Song Il-hyok, deputy director general of the North Korean foreign ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace, told the Xiangshan Forum.

“We think that sanctions and pressure do more harm than good – they are … confidence-destroying measures.”

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Song said the sanctions should be lifted because the situation on the Korean peninsula had changed, with ties between the two Koreas dramatically improving after three rounds of summits and the landmark meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

He said Trump and Kim “recognised that the mutual confidence-building can promote the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” when they met in Singapore in June.

Song was addressing the two-day forum hours after another North Korean delegate, Colonel General Kim Hyong-ryong, vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces, said Pyongyang wanted to turn the Korean peninsula into “the cradle of peace and prosperity”.

“It is our unwavering stand to lead the current state of tension … into stable peace and turn the Korean peninsula that was once the hottest spot in the globe into the cradle of peace and prosperity,” Kim said at the opening session of the forum.

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Kim was the first senior general from the North to attend and make a speech at an international security forum. A source close to the forum organisers told the South China Morning Post that Pyongyang had asked for Kim to be given the opportunity to address the meeting.

The North Korean representatives were the main focus on day one, with delegates from other countries questioning them over whether Pyongyang was sincere about denuclearising. But Song would only say that “confidence-building is the most important [thing] among nations and among people”.

Song’s call for the sanctions to be lifted drew support from Chinese delegates including Yang Xiyu, a senior fellow from the China Institute of International Studies, who said all countries in the region should make efforts to help the North.

Jin Canrong, associate dean of international studies at Renmin University, said China would continue to support Pyongyang’s efforts to denuclearise, saying Beijing’s policy on the North would not change amid its tensions with the US over trade.

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But Akiko Yamanaka, a former deputy Japanese foreign minister, and Wang Xiaobin, a senior colonel at the Institute of War Studies with the PLA Academy of Military Science, were sceptical. Both raised doubts over whether progress could be made given the global political climate and divergent views on the definition of denuclearisation between Pyongyang and Washington – particularly the North asking the US to withdraw its troops from South Korea to meet the goal of denuclearising the whole peninsula.