North Korea sanctions could be lifted after summit, says China

North Korea sanctions could be lifted after summit, says China

China has reportedly relaxed trade restrictions amid dismay from North Korean refugees

China’s foreign ministry has said the international community could consider lifting economic sanctions on North Korea after the agreement signed by Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore, according to Reuters.

The comment by Chinese officials suggests the US policy of “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang is already showing signs of cracking.

China represents more than 90% of North Korea’s trade and is in a position to provide much-needed relief for the isolated regime.

There are already reports that Kim’s charm offensive has led China to relax restrictions on trade with North Korea, violating United Nations sanctions.

This has come without substantial concessions from Pyongyang, despite a promise from the White House that “maximum pressure” would endure until North Korea relinquished its nuclear weapons.

At a press conference after the summit, Trump thanked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, for implementing sanctions and vowed to maintain US restrictions, despite China’s suggestion North Korea be rewarded with sanctions relief in the wake of the historic meeting.

In South Korea, Choi Jung-hoon, a member of the North Korean Liberation Front, a quasi-military group that advocates the overthrow of the regime in Pyongyang, said he was furious at the outcome of the summit, which had led to “only good things for Kim Jong-un”. Choi was an army officer in North Korea’s cyber-hacking unit for almost 20 years before he escaped in 2006.

“Trump completely lost to Kim, he was dragged around by Kim,” Choi said. “This has all been a political show by Trump, North Korea got away with everything they wanted. They said they will ‘denuclearise’, nothing has been said in detail.”

Choi was dismayed the US demand for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement was absent from the agreement and he was particularly disappointed human rights were not prominently featured. The UN estimates North Korea is holding up to 120,000 political prisoners and says the regime is guilty of crimes against humanity.

Another refugee, Jung Gwang-il, who works to smuggle information into North Korea, said he was “moderately disappointed”. He previously worked at state-run trading companies but was later sent to a labour camp and tortured. He arrived in South Korea in 2004.

“Promising security for Kim’s regime will mean he can stay in power and will just keep on oppressing the North Korean people,” Jung said. “If denuclearisation happens while people in North Korea are dying, it’s pointless.”

Many North Koreans who have fled over the border are deeply suspicious of the government, with many having suffered physical or mental abuse at its hands.

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