Pyongyang opens talks with South Korea


10 Jan, 2018

Pyongyang opens talks with South Korea

North Korea have opened negotiations with South Korea in a move suggesting that last year’s sanctions are beginning to take its toll on the authoritarian state.

2017 was the year in which Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un engaged in a war of words, with the US President promising to meet Pyongyang with “fire and fury” if the rogue state continued to ramp up its nuclear programme.

2017 also saw the rogue state test launch a series of intermediate range ballistic missiles, with some tests flying over and landing just a few hundred kilometres away from Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, causing mass panic.

Their refusal to hit the pause button on their nuclear programme prompted the United Nations to implement trade sanctions on the North, thus further isolating the already isolated state.

Crucially, the North’s biggest trading partner and only real ally - China - backed a UN resolution earlier in the year to block $1bn worth of North Korean exports. Later in the year, China ordered North Korean companies operating in its territory to shut down and move out of the country by 20 January 2018 at the latest.

However, as the North continued to carry out tests, tougher sanctions were agreed to in December, this time focusing on oil via limiting the country’s imports of refined petroleum to 500,000 barrels for 12 months starting on 1 January 2018.

The growing number of sanctions seem to be taking their toll, with exports estimated to have declined by “as much as 30% last year”. That’s according to Byung-Yeon Kim, author of the book "Unveiling the North Korean Economy".

Exports to China are said to be down by as much as 35%, a third of the regime’s economy, the BBC reports. Furthermore, these figures do not take into account December’s latest round of sanctions and some predict that the new restrictions could ultimately cut down the North's hard currency earnings by up to 80%.

However, BBC’s business correspondent for Asia, Karishma Vaswani, says that sanctions and a weaker economy will not halt the North’s nuclear ambitions, stating that its nuclear capabilities have been proven so “Kim Jong Un isn't losing anything by negotiating with South Korea”.

The South also announced that they are prepared to temporarily lift some sanctions during this year’s Winter Olympics in the Pyeongchang county.

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