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N. Korea's hard currency reserves expected to dry up by October: lawmaker

All Headlines 10:46 February 21, 2018

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's hard currency reserves are expected to dry up around October if international sanctions on the communist nation hold, the chairman of the parliamentary intelligence committee said Wednesday.

Rep. Kang Seok-ho of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party said during a party meeting that the North's recent peace overtures toward the South, including its invitation to President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang, are aimed at overcoming such economic hardship.

"I received an analysis that, if international sanctions against the North continue like this, all of North Korea's foreign currency earnings and overseas assets will be frozen, and its dollar (reserves) will dry up around October," the lawmaker said.

Kang didn't say where the analysis came from, including whether it's from the National Intelligence Service.

He said it is an assessment he drew after discussions with intelligence authorities, concluding that as a result of international sanctions North Korea held out an olive branch, including its invitation to Moon to visit the North for what would be a third inter-Korean summit.

"At a time like this, our government should further strengthen cooperation with the international community on sanctions against the North," Kang said.

He also said the government should send a special envoy to the North and work actively to help resume talks between the U.S. and the North.

In recent weeks, inter-Korean relations have warmed rapidly as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stepped up his peace offensive toward the South, sending his only sister to the South as part of a high-level delegation to the Olympics and inviting Moon to visit the North.

Moon said in response that he hopes the right conditions will be created so that the proposed visit can take place. The remark was seen as meaning that there should first be progress on efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff, such as talks between the United Sates and the North, before an inter-Korean summit takes place.

Conservative opposition parties and other critics have voiced concerns that the South is playing into the North's hands and that the communist regime is using its charm offensive to undermine international sanctions against it.
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