US heaps more sanctions on NK despite talks overtures

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/7 19:43:39

Sanctions, threats against N.Korea have failed: expert

People watch a TV news report showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right), South Korean President Moon Jae-in (center) and US President Donald Trump at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea on Wednesday. Photo: AP

The US has exerted more pressure on North Korea, slapping new sanctions despite a rare gesture from Pyongyang showing willingness to halt nuclear programs if its national security is assured.

The US said Pyongyang used the chemical warfare agent VX to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half brother, in Malaysia in 2017, and has imposed sanctions in response, Reuters quoted the US State Department as saying on Tuesday.

US Vice President Mike Pence said the US would continue to apply "maximum pressure" on North Korea and that all options were "on the table" until Washington sees evidence that Pyongyang was taking steps toward denuclearization.

Analysts said the sanctions and timing of the announcement reflect a grave lack of mutual trust between Washington and Pyongyang, and warned that such skepticism might jeopardize future talks and even peace on the Korean Peninsula.

On Monday, Kim Jong-un met senior South Korean officials for the first time since taking office. Visiting South Korean envoys said Tuesday upon returning home that Kim expressed his willingness to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula if his country's security is assured.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday welcomed progress made during the meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean envoys, saying China supports interactions between the two Koreas following the Winter Olympic Games.

"Slapping new sanctions does not mean Washington is unwilling to talk to Pyongyang. However it shows a certain degree of skepticism. Despite Kim's gesture, the US may continue its 'maximum pressure' until Washington sees concrete action from Pyongyang," Zhang Huizhi, a professor at Jilin University's Northeast Asian Studies College, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Zhang said that even if the US and North Korea hold bilateral talks, they will eventually expand to include other countries such as China and Russia to serve as brokers due to the extreme lack of mutual trust between Washington and Pyongyang.

Wait and see attitude

South Korean officials who met with Kim Jong-un will leave for Washington on Thursday, seeking to reassure their US ally ahead of negotiations on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean president's national security adviser, said he had a message from Kim Jong-un to US officials, but it was not clear whether he would meet with US President Donald Trump.

After returning from the US, the South Korean officials will split up and Chung will visit China and Russia, while National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon will head to Japan.

"Kim Jong-un's terms on denuclearization are quite ambiguous. What does ensuring his country's security entail? Does it mean he wants the US to halt joint military drills with South Korea? Does it mean he wants the US to withdraw troops from the Korean Peninsula?" Zhang asked.

Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the US is unlikely to accept withdrawing troops from South Korea in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear program.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday that the US had "come a long way, at least rhetorically," with North Korea and "statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive."

Asked if he had any preconditions for talks, Trump said, "I don't want to talk about it. We're going to see what happens."

"Right now, the ball is in the US' yard. History has shown neither sanctions nor military threats against North Korea have worked as expected. Missing the window for talks is not a smart move for the Trump administration," Lü said.

Newspaper headline: US heaps sanctions on NK despite overtures


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