North Korea wants international sanctions banning its metal exports and imports of refined fuel and other necessities lifted before it restarts denuclearisation talks with the US, South Korean lawmakers said yesterday.
The North has also demanded the easing of sanctions on its imports of luxury goods to be able to bring in alcohol and suits, the lawmakers said after being briefed by Park Jie-won, head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea’s main intelligence agency.
The briefing came a week after the two Koreas restored hotlines that North Korea suspended a year ago, the first hint in months that North Korea might be more responsive to engagement efforts.
“As a precondition to reopen talks, North Korea argues that the US should allow mineral exports and imports of refined oil and necessities,” Ha Tae-keung, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters, citing Park.
“I asked which necessities they want the most, and they said alcohol and suits were included, not just for Kim Jong-un’s own consumption but to distribute to Pyongyang’s elite,” he said, referring to North Korea’s leader.
North Korea’s state-run media made no mention yesterday of any new request for the lifting sanctions to restart talks.
The UN Security Council has imposed a wide range of sanctions on North Korea for pursuing its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in defiance of UN resolutions.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006 and test-fired missiles capable of hitting the US.
The US, Japan and South Korea have also imposed their own sanctions on North Korea.
North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) since 2017, ahead of a historic meeting in Singapore between Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump in 2018.
Trump had two subsequent meetings with Kim but without progress on getting the North to give up its nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for sanctions relief.
Kim Byung-kee, another South Korean legislator, said North Korea appeared to have “harboured discontent” with the US for not offering concessions for the moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.
“The US should be able to bring them back to dialogue by readjusting some sanctions,” Kim said, citing Park.
A senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration said in March that North Korea had not responded to behind-the-scenes diplomatic outreach.
After a review of North Korea policy, the US administration said it would explore diplomacy to achieve the goal of complete denuclearisation of North Korea but would not seek a grand bargain with Kim.
Military exercises involving US and South Korean forces, which North Korea sees as preparations for an invasion, could stymie any positive steps.
The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has assumed a significant role in the administration, warned South Korea on Sunday that joint exercises with the US would undermine a thaw between the two Koreas.
South Korean legislator Kim quoted Park as saying that the question of exercises had to be considered: “There’s also a need to consider responding flexibly to South Korea-US military exercises.”
(File photo) US and North Korean national flags are seen at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. (REUTERS)