Over the past week since the June 12 North Korea-U.S. summit in Singapore, the follow up negotiation for the implementation measures for the North’s denuclearization has not been made yet but inter-Korean discussions are gaining momentum. Followed by last week’s military talks, the North and the South opened a sports summit at Panmunjom Monday and talked about means to jointly participate at the Asian Games in August and open a unification basketball competition between the two Koreas. The Red Cross summit will be held on Mount Kumgang Friday. South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha announced that she would push forward a summit with her North Korean counterpart.
The atmosphere of thawing is even more conspicuous between North Korea and China. More than 10 Chinese factories in the borderland with North Korea, which had suspended operation during the process of imposing sanctions against North Korea, resumed its operation recently and sanctioned items such as North Korean fisheries can also be seen easily. The number of North Korean workers seconded to China is also on the increase.
Vitalization of talks between the two Koreas as a result of alleviation in tension is natural and appropriate. The activeness that can be seen at the border area between North Korea and China is also something that cannot be prevented artificially. The problem, however, is the side effect that may arise if this sort of reconciliation is not in line with the implementation of denuclearization and rather outpaces it. In particular, it is very concerning to witness the changes that are underway in China recently. These changes incorporate aspects that go beyond the natural activeness at the private level and is not possible unless the Chinese government’s policy changes.
China claimed the necessity of alleviating or withdrawing sanctions against North Korea by emphasizing political resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issues. The United States, which ought to lead China, is starting to show minor changes in its position regarding sanctions. While U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has agreed to the opinion that sanctions against North Korea should be lifted after complete denuclearization after the summit between the ministers of foreign affairs of the United States and China on Thursday he also mentioned that he and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi have agreed to consider - “equipment to lift sanctions” under the UN Resolution. The UN resolution stipulates a provision that allows amendment, enforcement and cancellation of sanctions. The fact that the United States is considering such provisions implies sanctions could be eased even before denuclearization.
When comparing the construction of inter-Korean reconciliation and peace in the Southeast Asia region, this building can only be built on the foundation and frame called complete denuclearization of North Korea. In other words, different floors of relaxation of political and military tensions, economic cooperation and private-level exchange in various sectors can only be built when there is a foundation called denuclearization. Talks with North Korea was possible because the international society with the United States in the center built a single line of sanctions against North Korea. If international sanctions against the North, which is the essence that changed North Korea and the only method, is alleviated when we have not even started shoveling, the driving force of denuclearization itself is bound to become weak.