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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 18)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:07 December 18, 2019

Wrong signal to North Korea
:It is premature to call for sanctions relief

China and Russia have proposed the U.N. Security Council ease sanctions against North Korea amid growing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington over the stalled nuclear talks. On Monday, the two countries circulated a draft resolution to council members calling for sanctions relief.

The proposal is somewhat surprising as it came when U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was visiting Seoul for a possible contact with the North's negotiators to put the deadlocked dialogue back on track. Pyongyang is threatening to conduct another provocation, possibly an ICBM test launch, after carrying out two tests ― believed to be rocket engine tests ― on Dec. 7 and 13.

The Kim Jong-un regime has made the threat in an apparent bid to extract concessions from the U.S., possibly sanctions relief, before the year-end deadline it has given. The North has even threatened to stop the denuclearization talks and take a "new way" unless Washington accepts its demands by Dec. 31.

Against this backdrop, the sanctions relief proposal by the North's allies ― China and Russia ― runs the risk of sending the wrong signal to Pyongyang. The draft resolution calls on the council to lift sanctions which were imposed on major North Korean exports such as coal, iron, iron core and textiles in 2016 and 2017. It also calls for lifting a ban on North Koreans working abroad and the termination of a decision to repatriate all those workers by Dec. 22. The two countries said the proposal was made to enhance the livelihood of the civilian population and for humanitarian purposes.

However, the proposal stands little chance of passing through the council as the U.S. and other veto-wielding powers such as Britain and France are strongly against sanctions relief. No nation should try to weaken international cooperation to get North Korea to take a path toward complete and verifiable denuclearization.

It is still premature to talk about sanctions relief. The Kim regime has done little to nothing to keep its commitment to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Kim only declared a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. He has yet to keep his commitment to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" he agreed to with U.S. President Donald Trump during their first historic summit in Singapore in June 2018.

Pyongyang and Washington have also failed to narrow their differences over the methods of denuclearization since the second Kim-Trump summit ended with no deal in Hanoi in February. The North has conducted 13 short-range ballistic missile tests since May to put more pressure on the U.S.

In this context, it is important for the international community to form a united front against the North. The United Nations should go all-out to ensure that Pyongyang makes sincere and genuine efforts to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. Therefore it is time for the U.N. to strictly enforce its sanctions against the North, not soften them.

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