This week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ analyses the October 1 to 7, 2018 editions of the ‘Rodong Sinmun’, the Workers’ Party of Korea’s official newspaper.
1. “Supreme Leader’s Activity”
There were no reports of any public activities from Kim Jong Un this week.
While there was one report of Kim Jong Un’s visit to Kim Chaek University of Technology in commemoration of the 70th founding anniversary of the university last week, the absence of this week’s public activity might be related to the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s visit to North Korea on the October 7th.
The US Secretary, Mike Pompeo will visit North Korea this Sunday, October 7th, thus, I anticipate that the meeting between Pompeo and Kim will be reportedon the October 8th edition of the ‘Rodong Sinmun.’
North Korea’s recent consecutive comments on US-North Korea relations shows that the denuclearization negotiations are facing a critical moment..
2. International Relations
There were several significant reports on the future prospects of the US-North Korean relations in this week’s ‘Rodong Sinmun.’
First of all, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho addressed at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly on September 29, that confidence building measures should be taken first on the way to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and thus insisted that North Korea and the US should move forward with a “step-by-step approach” with things that can be achieved first in the process of peace-building as well as taking simultaneous actions.
Ri Yong Ho’s assertion on “step-by-step approach,” in fact, implies that the North Korea will never give the list of nuclear facilities.
Nevertheless, Rodong Sinmun did not include the part of Ri Yong Ho’s speech that there would be no unilateral abandonment of nuclear weapons.
Ri Yong Ho’s speech at the UN General Assembly took place on September 29, while ‘Rodong Sinmun’ reported a day after his speech, on October 2nd; considering the international community’s response, North Korea might perceive the repeated report of Ri’s claim that there would be no unilateral abandonment of nuclear weapons on ‘Rodong Sinmun’ as unreasonable.
Furthermore, the important article claiming that ‘termination of war is not just gift’ reported by the ‘Korean Central News Agency’ (KCNA) on October 2 was not published on the ‘Rodong Sinmun.’ This article elaborated on North Korea’s process of denuclearization such as but not limited to the verification and dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program demanded by the US and shut down of Yongbyon Nuclear Site as well as the dismantlement of North Korea’s missile systems. The fact that the ‘Rodong Sinmun’ did not publish KCNA’s article’ which is only published overseas, signifies theNorth Korean government’s reluctance to inform details of denuclearization to its people.
At present, the North Korean media is trying not to report about issues that are mainly discussed through inter-Korean and US-North Korean talks such as denuclearization or economic cooperation of the two Koreas , but rather is choosing to be vague by briefly mentioning as the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
The reason why North Korea’s official media such as the ‘Rodong Sinmun’ is not reporting on the detailed information about the process of denuclearization is because the report differs from the internal lectures that are delivered to the North Korean people in which they are told that the North Korean government will never give up its nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, ‘Rodong Sinmun’ once again argued through its October 4th commentary, entitled “Self-contradictions that create an obstacle in one’s way must be removed,” that without the betterment of the US-North Korean relations based on confidence building, there will be no further steps towards the denuclearization of Korean peninsula and the key of confidence building process is to lift sanctions.
This week Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister visited China to have a bilateral negotiation with Kong Xuanyou, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Special Representative of the Chinese Government on the Korean Peninsular Affairs. Accordingly, ‘Rodong Sinmun’ briefly reported that both ministershad time to thoroughly exchange ideas on their mutual interests on foreign affairs including the issues of the Korean peninsula and agreed to strengthen the communication and cooperation between China and North Korea.
Since North Korea has taken partial measures for denuclearization, it has intensified its behind-the-scenes negotiations with China and Russia to persuade them to actively participate in UN Security Council to lift the sanctions.
In conclusion, I anticipate that in the upcoming meeting with US Secretary of State, Pompeo on October 7th, Kim Jong Un will insist that North Korea give up its ICBMs rather than providing the list of nuclear weapons for the exchange of lifting sanctions based on the UN Security Council resolution 2397 and 2375.
3. Inter-Korean Relations
This week, North Korea focused on commemorating the 11th anniversary of the October 4th Declaration. About 150 people making up the South Korean delegation visited North Korea and announced a joint appeal to tangibly contribute to the implementation of the north-south declaration “by acting in concert with the same intention” throughout any circumstances.
Right now, North Korea is currently using South Korea in any way possible as a means to get rid of the sanctions.