2021: Peace Network Newsletter Issue 2021-3
Peace Network Korea
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Peace Network
Peace Network Newsletter, 2021-3
Small steps, Road to peace
Reasons for New Approaches to Sanctions on North Korea
Cheong Wooksik (Director of Peace Network)
Hyukmin Kang (Translation)
The Eighth Congress of Workers’ Party’s key results can be summarized as the adoption of the economic-nuclear parallel development policy 2.0 (ENPDP) for a national strategy and North Korean strategic patience towards South Korea and the United States. North Korea did not use these terms directly but in terms of contents.
The ENPDP 2.0 is the one that the North reinstated and reinforced the previous one, which they firstly adopted in 2013 and declared its termination in 2018. It refers to the full-scale economic development, underlying self-reliance and self-sufficiency and the establishment of nuclear armament marked by second-strike capability, incapacitation or avoidance technique of missile defence, and a tactical nuclear weapon. The North’s choice has significant implications for the inter-Korean relationship as well as the global milieu on the Korean Peninsula henceforth.
In the previous ENPDP, the North aimed to resolve economic sanctions inflicting themselves and make favourable international environments via compromises with the U.S. while enduring the economic hardships by self-reliance. However, the North concluded that such an aim was nothing short of an illusion and decided to abandon wishes of the resolution for sanctions. Then, the North accepted sanctions as the ‘invariable’ and pursued economic development and improvement of people’s life.
In this respect, it is worth noticing Kim Jung-Un’s recognition and changes of rhetoric to sanctions as of 2018. In the second half of 2018, Kim condemned sanctions after not seeing expected sanctions relief through the 2018 North Korea-United States summit and urged U.S.’ attitudinal changes. And, he intended to swap the termination of Yongbyon nuclear facilities with sanctions relief in the 2019 United States-North Korea summit. Yet, as the meeting ended up with the so-called ‘Hanoi No Deal’, he started to change his rhetoric and asserted that the North will no longer adhere to sanctions relief at the Supreme People’s Assembly in April 2019. But, the hope lingered on. He prompted the U.S.’ courageous decision, stating once more that “(the U.S.) will not have a great chance like this anymore.”
However, as the 2019 Koreas-United States DMZ summit also turned out a political show, the rhetoric of ‘no more regret’ appeared at the end of the year. Kim expressed that it is a fact that “sanctions relief is utterly needed’, but “cannot swap it with the dignity, which the North has protected as if we did for our lives” in the Supreme People’s Assembly, while assuring a frontal breakthrough by self-reliance. Furthermore, in the Eighth Congress of Workers’ Party, he declared that “the DPRK will figure out flaws of economic development from the subjectivity; not from the objectivity, meaning that they will no longer suffer from or being dependent on sanctions but take a golden opportunity to strengthen self-reliance and self-sufficiency. By these statements, Kim may intend to deliver a message to the international society: ‘Do sanctions. We will find our way!’
Reinforcement of nuclear capability also deserves attention. North Korea’s modernization of nuclear armament consists of three pillars, as noted above. The kernel of second-strike capability is to develop nuclear-powered submarine and load submarine-launched nuclear missile. Major weapon system to emasculate the missile defence of the South Korea-Japan-the U.S. is marked by multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) and hypersonic launch vehicle. A tactical nuclear weapon may be understood that the North might install nuclear warhead to short-range vehicle and middle-range cruise missile, both of which the North showed off to the international society in 2019 and 2020.
Among these, it is doubtable if the North could develop, produce, and deploy nuclear submarine, MIRV, and hypersonic launch missile in reality because they take a long-period of time and cost a tremendous amount of money. Thus far, it seems also for negotiations. However, a tactical nuclear weapon may be a different case as equipping nuclear warhead to supersized multiple rocket launcher, new tactical missile, and shorter-distance cruise missile is achievable with relatively shorter time and lower cost. Additionally, Kim clarified that “it is necessary to develop applicable tactical nuclear weapons for different uses according to operational missions and targets.”
What about strategic patience? Regarding the inter-Korean relations, the North made their positions clear, stating that “whether the North-South relations progress or not entirely depends on the attitudes of the South” and “according to that, the relationship will be able to go back to spring days three years ago at any time.” Furthermore, the North specified, “the key point of building a new relationship between the North and the U.S. banks on the U.S.’ withdrawal of the ‘hostile North Korea policy’”, and they will treat the U.S. with “an eye for an eye” principle. It implies that the North believes, no matter who seizes power, the U.S. itself and the real intentions of the policy towards the North does not change.
In short, the North is to wait for the attitudinal changes of the South and the U.S. A Paradox is that it is a déjà vu of Lee Myung Bak and Park Geun Hye governments and Obama administration that Pyongyang fiercely condemned from the North Korean strategic choice, however. The central device of the previous strategic patience of the South and the U.S. was the reinforcement of sanctions. Both put maximum pressure on the North to choose either abandoning nuclear weapons or sanctions. We already know how it ended up.
The principal tool of strategic patience addressed in the congress was the reinforcement of nuclear force, pushing the South and the U.S. to choose either withdrawal of the hostile policy or acceptance of an increased number of nuclear weapons. Pyongyang delivered this message several times in the past, but this time is different in two aspects. First, while the North’s words and actions were to fetch over the U.S. for negotiations in the past, this time they firmly require tangible proof of the withdrawal of the hostile policy. Second, the North’s scheme of reinforcing nuclear force will not be something bearable any longer and complicate the U.S. algorithm towards them.
What do the North’s choice and the prospects imply? It underlines that we need to confront the fact that sanctions caused reverse effects in previous time may lose its effectiveness from now on because the North accepted sanctions as ‘invariable’ and asserted self-reliance. It has a critical implication for prospective negotiations with the North. First, Pyongyang’s motivations for negotiations may decrease, as they have changed its position from sanctions resolutions, which used to be the important purpose for negotiations with the U.S. to self-reliance. Although the North comes to the negotiation table, problems remain open: it is likely for the DPRK to demand mutual disarmament of the South and the U.S and unlikely for the South and the U.S. will accept the suggestion.
Hence, the Biden administration ought to take a different approach to sanctions. It ought not to pursue the maintenance and reinforcement of sanctions which may fan the North’s antipathy, but to bring policies to ease and withdraw them in accordance with the denuclearization process. This approach can create sympathy. If the new administration expresses this willingness, it will revive the DPRK’s interest to return to negotiations because the sanction resolutions are still what the North utterly aspires.
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