US mulls sanctions relief for North Korea in exchange for nuclear freeze

Bloomberg Sydney | Updated on July 11, 2019 Published on July 11, 2019

A person walks past a banner showing North Korean and US flags. The two sides are expected to meet soon to restart working-level talks.   -  Reuters

Sanctions would snap back if North Korea fails to meet deal


The U.S. is considering suspending some sanctions on North Korea for 12 to 18 months in exchange for a freeze on the country’s nuclear weapons program, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

The Trump administration would support lifting United Nations restrictions on North Korean coal and textiles exports as part of a deal to break their stalemate in nuclear talks, Yonhap said, citing an unidentified person close to the White House. In exchange, leader Kim Jong Un would be expected to dismantle his main nuclear complex at Yongbyon and halt his entire weapons program, the news agency from South Korea said.

The sanctions would snap back into place if North Korea failed to meet its side of the bargain, Yonhap reported. Suspending the sanctions would restore a valuable source of revenue to Kim’s regime.

Meanwhile, North Korea revised its constitution to make Kim head of state, a promotion that could help normalise his relations with other world leaders ahead of any further meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump. The change was included in a text posted on the propaganda website Naenara and reported Thursday by Yonhap.

Read also: North Korea revises constitution to make Kim Jong Un head of state

The U.S. and North Korea are expected to hold their first working-level talks in five months, following up on Trumps historic June 30 meeting with Kim on the border between the two Koreas. While a freeze has long been among the US’s goals, the Trump administration has so far refused Kim’s demands for sanctions relief.

Trump walked away from his previous round of talks with Kim after the North Korea leader sought the removal of all UN sanctions passed in 2016 and 2017 in exchange for dismantling Yongbyon. Kim subsequently resumed tests of short-range ballistic missiles and warned that he would wait only until the end of the year for a change in the U.S. position.

The UN Security Council has passed five rounds of sanctions against North Korea since the country’s fifth nuclear test in September 2016. Those penalties, which would require U.S. support to undo, include everything from curbs on North Koreas oil imports to a ban on its export of iron and coal.

A nuclear freeze would represent only the first step toward the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, as required by Security Council resolutions. Still, Trump is looking to break the stalemate in negotiations that have delivered little since he and Kim agreed to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula during their first meeting 13 months ago.

The sanctions suspension could help build trust between the two long-time foes and provide a model that could be expanded as North Korea takes further disarmament steps, Yonhap said, citing the person close to the White House.

Published on July 11, 2019
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