INTER-KOREA SUMMIT/REALITY ON THE GROUND

International pressure campaign to continue

The meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was front-page news in the South yesterday.
The meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was front-page news in the South yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A day after the curtain fell on a historic summit between leaders of the two Koreas, life in the North goes on as usual and could even get worse as a global "maximum pressure" campaign begins to bite.

After all the pomp and pageantry of last Friday's meeting, regional players including Mr Kim Jong Un's South Korean host will continue to enforce strict sanctions on Pyongyang until it gives up its nuclear and ballistic missiles arsenal.

Just hours after Mr Kim left the border truce village of Panmunjom for Pyongyang on Friday night, US Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington will not soften its international pressure campaign.

Japan, which has been one of the most vocal in warning the world against being hoodwinked by the North's charm offensive, said yesterday it is working with partner countries to curtail illicit maritime activities such as ship-to-ship transfers of goods with North Korean-flagged vessels.

Australia and Canada are planning to deploy patrol aircraft to the Kadena Air Base in south-western Okinawa. The US military will lead the coordination of these aircraft operations, working with Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force.

A British Royal Navy frigate that arrived at the US Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, this month will also monitor such illicit trading activity. It is extremely rare for several non-Japanese forces to jointly operate out of Japan.

Just hours after Mr Kim left the border truce village of Panmunjom for Pyongyang on Friday night, US Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington will not soften its international pressure campaign.

Japan has played an active role to police the seas off the Korean peninsula, and has this year raised to the United Nations at least four instances of illegal transfers of goods between North Korean and foreign vessels out in the open sea to evade sanctions.

Seoul's hands are also tied by the stiff sanctions on the regime by the UN Security Council, given how the Panmunjom Declaration on Friday had not clearly stated the areas of economic or business exchanges.

The closest they came was a vow to repair and connect roads and railways between the two countries, and the establishment of a joint liaison office in the border city of Kaesong in North Korea, where a joint industrial complex has remained shuttered since 2016 following a series of provocations by Pyongyang.

Some experts see Mr Kim's trip as a ploy to soften sanctions and weaken alliances. Dr Michael Green of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told reporters last week that Beijing and Moscow might then be able to argue that pressure on Pyongyang "is an obstacle to a peace treaty".

US President Donald Trump thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping in a tweet on Friday widely interpreted as a hint to China to not ease sanctions on Pyongyang.

"Please do not forget the great help that my good friend, President Xi of China, has given to the United States, particularly at the Border of North Korea," he wrote.

Yesterday, after speaking with South Korean President Moon Jae In on the phone, Mr Trump said that preparations were being made for a meeting with Mr Kim that is expected by June. Mr Trump said he had also spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to inform him of ongoing negotiations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'International pressure campaign to continue'. Print Edition | Subscribe