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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea is continuing to position ongoing sanctions against the country as the biggest impediment to denuclearization talks, with an official calling them “confidence-destroying measures” at a forum in Beijing on Thursday.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Song Il Hyok – the deputy director general of the Institute for Disarmament and Peace – made the comments during a discussion at the Xiangshan Forum hosted by China.
“We think that sanctions and pressure do more harm than good,” Song is quoted as saying by multiple news agencies.
Song added that U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “recognized” that confidence building would be a conduit for successful denuclearization talks.
The official, however, said that the maintenance of sanctions are destroying confidence and called on the U.S. to “lift immediately the sanctions and this hindrance”, according to the Agence France Presse (AFP).
The Institute of Disarmament and Peace is attached to the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
North Korean public messaging and rhetoric has increasingly focused on the relaxation of sanctions as a topic of significance, with state media positioning the issue as the primary “obstacle” to progress in DPRK-U.S. nuclear negotiations.
On October 20, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published an op-ed – titled “Does the US feel ashamed of itself for approaching us with two faces” – which was heavily critical of the U.S. policy of maintaining sanctions until the denuclearization of North Korea is realized.
In a sign of its perceived importance to the North Korean government, the editorial was distributed publicly by the DPRK permanent mission at the UN.
The DPRK is not the only country that would like to see sanctions rolled back, with Russia and China publishing a joint communique with North Korea on October 10 calling for a review of UN Security Council measures against the DPRK in light of its diplomatic engagement this year.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the South Korean government have also become increasingly vocal regarding its support for the relaxation of sanctions. Moon recently traveled to Europe where he lobbied national leaders to consider loosening measures on North Korea in order to encourage it to denuclearize.
However, the U.S. and many of its allies – including in Europe – continue to call for the full implementation of sanctions and their maintenance until North Korea moves to denuclearize.
In response, North Korean state media has also singled out some of those allies – such as Australia and Japan – for criticism in subsequent articles.
While bilateral U.S.-DPRK talks have seemingly stalled of late, the two countries are seeking to arrange a second summit between Trump and Kim.
In the meantime, both countries continue to publicly indicate a significant gap in expectations regarding sanctions and the process of denuclearization.