This week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ analyses the November 26 to December 2, 2018 editions of ‘Rodong Sinmun‘, the Workers’ Party of Korea’s official newspaper as well as the ‘Uriminzokkiri‘, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea’s official website.
A few things to highlight from this week’s ‘Latest from North Korea’ are as follows.
First, there was a report of public activity from Kim Jong Un after two weeks of absence from media exposure.
According to an article in the ‘Rodong Sinmun‘ on December 1st, Kim Jong Un provided field guidance to three fisher stations in the eastern coastal area which are the May 27th Fishery Station, August 25th Fishery Station, and January 8th Fishery Station run by the Korean People’s Army.
Enterprises with dates, numbers or people’s names in their names are one related to the military.
It was reported that Kim Jong Un came to the fisheries with great pleasure after receiving a report on the eastern coastal are fisheries catching 60,000 tons of fish in a short span of time. The announced itself implies that they caught in inordinately large amount of fish, because usually, the announcement of fishery harvest statistic are only made on small unites such as individual enterprises.
Late November to early December is sandfish season in North Korea, so all fishermen go out to catch them.
According to a foreigner who recently visited North Korea, 3 million North Korean people experience financial difficulties because they are not able to sell seafood to China due to the UN Security Council sanction on banning all export of seafood from North Korea.
Second, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, Kim Yong Nam visited Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela, while Minister of Foreign Affairs in North Korea, Ri Yong Ho visited Vietnam and Syria. However, I was more intrigued by the fact that the commemoration ceremonies of the 65th anniversary of the inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in economy and culture between North Korea and China were held separately.
Following North Korea’s commemoration on the 65th anniversary of the agreement, the Chinese government also held a commemoration in Beijing on November 29th where Hao Mingjin, former Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Supervision, Kong Xuanyou, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and others in various departments including the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, Ministry of Culture, and Financial and Economic Affairs were invited.
The the Commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the agreement was also held in China shows that China is helping North Korea ease the financial difficulties caused by the economic sanctions.
Sixty-five years ago, Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China concluded the inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in economy and culture with North Korea to provide an annual economic aid to North Korea.
China provided more than one hundred million dollars worth of oil and machinery as economic aid to North Korea while directing great amounts of funds to the Vietnam War, in order to win North Korea over in the competition with the Soviet Union.
Air fuel for the North Korean air force was also given as economic aid.
The event was a grand affair because it was the 65th anniversary of this agreement. Furthermore, the bigger reason behind this grand commemoration is North Korea’s gratitude towards China for providing all of this year’s economic aid regardless of the international sanctions against North Korea.
Third, despite the historic event of a South Korean train entering North Korean territory for the joint surveys on northern railway, not a single North Korean media channel commented on this but rather urged the South Korean government to not get affected by the political stance of the United States.
The reason the North Korean media did not report the joint surveys on northern railway is because the state does not wish to report news that can unnecessarily stir up its public. North Korea is fully aware of the fact that the actual connection of railway systems with South Korea could take a long time to accomplish, even if the co-inspection takes place, unless progress is made on the denuclearization process.
At the same time, North Korea strongly argued through the ‘Rodong Sinmun‘ and ‘Uriminzokkiri‘ that South Korea should implement the Panmunjom Declaration and the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration regardless of external factors. It also reiterated that the South Korean government should not follow the United States’ diplamatic pace in dealing with inter-Korean relations.
In particular, ‘Uriminzokkiri‘ released a self-congratulatory remark on November 29th, marking the first anniversary of launching ICBM Hwasong-15, which they state as final proof that North Korea is a nuclear power. They went on to state that because of the completion of nuclear weapons, the Korean peninsula witnessed dramatic changes in inter-Korean relations and the historic US-North Korea summit for the peace of the Korean peninsula took place, which are both event that had not been imaginable in the past.
‘Uriminzokkiri‘ further stated that North Korea will continue to protect its sovereignty and promote peace and security in the Korean peninsula and surrounding regions by possessing power that no once can ignore. This statement suggests that if the economic sanctions against North Korea are not lifted, North Korea will not take any additional denuclearization measures.
THe South Korean government aims to accelerate the denuclearization of North Korea by getting Kim Jong Un to visit Seoul for a summit. However, Kim Jong Un would be considering if creating a peaceful atmosphere through his visit to Seoul would be wise when they do not have plans for any further denuclearization.
Kim Jong Un knows that North Korea would have to take a big step toward denuclearization for the actual construction of linking railway systems with South Korea to begin. Hence, there is a high likelihood that Kim would consider the groundbreaking ceremony, after the investigation on the norther railway tracks are completed in December, meaningless to participate in.