N.Korea and US 'in direct contact'

N.Korea and US 'in direct contact'
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is in direct contact with North Korea and is looking into whether Kim Jong Un is open to talks. The comment..

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is in direct contact with North Korea and is looking into whether Kim Jong Un is open to talks. The comment, made during a brief trip to China, was the first time the Trump administration acknowledged direct communication with Pyongyang.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” he said.

“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout. We have a couple, three, channels open to Pyongyang; we can talk to them; we do talk to them,” he said.

Background

In September, the UN imposed sanctions on the isolated nation twice in a matter of few months. The latest round of sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea is among the harshest to be imposed on the nation. There is now a ban on textile exports and a call to reduce oil imports by 30%. There is also a ban on hiring North Korean workers overseas. There are currently 100,000 North Koreans employed outside of the country.

In 1933, the international community began a trade boycott in Germany alarmed by the rise of Nazism. The boycott was primarily spearheaded by America and the United Kingdom and it was in response to the anti-semitic laws that had been passed by the Nazi party under the control of Adolf Hitler.

In 1940, UK’s Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces ordered a complete embargo on oil. The Allied oil campaign was directed towards ensuring facilities would not supply Germany with petroleum, oil and lubrication products. This was to choke the country and prevent it from using these materials in building weaponry.

US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that in addition to the UN sanctions, China should cut off its oil supply to North Korea. He said, “I am hopeful that China, as a great country, a world power, will decide on their own and will take it upon themselves to use that very powerful tool of oil supply to persuade North Korea to reconsider its current path towards weapons development.”

Read more: North Korea’s options

Analysis

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said later in the day that despite the U.S. efforts, “North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization.”

Tillerson’s remarks came after a day of meetings with top Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping — meetings that saw both sides strike a careful, conciliatory tone.

The secretary of state’s day-long visit comes amid an escalating standoff over how to thwart Kim’s nuclear weapons program.

In recent weeks, the conflict has devolved to an exchange of insults and threats between the U.S. president and the North Korean dictator, prompting Chinese calls for restraint. Tillerson seems to have gotten that message. In brief, statements ahead of his meetings with Chinese leaders, the secretary of state did not so much as mention North Korea and nor, for that matter, did the Chinese.

Instead, both sides tried to keep the focus on President Trump’s upcoming Asia visit, which Xi promised would be a “special, wonderful, and successful” event.

For months now, Beijing has been consumed with preparations for twice-a-decade political meetings to be held in October. The focus on the 19th National Congress means the Chinese leadership’s interest in off-script moves from either Trump or Kim is lower than ever — and it already started pretty low. Though arriving late, Tillerson did the Chinese the favor of staying on message, saying nothing publicly that could embarrass them or signal new, unexpected moves.

Earlier in September, North Korea tested a nuclear bomb just hours before Xi delivered a keynote speech, stealing his spotlight. Then as China’s state news media struggled to keep the focus on Xi, Trump weighed in, tweeting that North Korea has become a “great threat and embarrassment to China.”

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, later called Trump’s tweet “unacceptable.”

Tillerson, perhaps trying to avoid that kind of scolding, ended his trip with a call for calm. “I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down,” he said. “They’re a little overheated right now. And I think we need to calm them down first.”

North Korea continued the rhetoric on Saturday, releasing a statement calling Mr. Trump an "old psychopath" bent on the "suicidal act of inviting a nuclear disaster that will reduce America to a sea of flames".

The UN has brought in sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to force the secretive state to stop its weapons program.

Assessment

As we predicted before, it will be absolutely imperative for the US to build bridges directly with the North Korea. Having a place in the high table and being able to negotiate directly with Washington was high on Pyongyang's priority list. We feel that US should have tempered their high rhetoric earlier and looked for a solution.  We reckon that Pyongyang was able to understand ground realities better, factorise the US vulnerabilities and may have outsmarted the US in this round of political brinkmanship.

Read more:

More aggressive North Korea

Cyberwar by North Korea?

The inevitable war – North Korea

Comments