Sanctions, peace deal on cards for new US-North Korea summit

When Kim met Trump, the first-ever summit between the two nations, North Korea was seen as seeking a treaty. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 January 2019
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Sanctions, peace deal on cards for new US-North Korea summit

  • North Korea watchers believe that Kim’s primary goal is relief from international sanctions and doubt he will suddenly give up his nuclear arsenal
  • The US is already preparing to ease restrictions on humanitarian aid and could offer to exchange liaison offices with Pyongyang

WASHINGTON: As Donald Trump seeks progress with North Korea at a second summit, the United States has a series of cards it can play including easing sanctions, signing a peace declaration or even pulling troops from South Korea.
After the historic handshake between the US president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, Washington policymakers are adamant on the need for tangible concessions by Pyongyang on its nuclear program at the sequel meeting, which Trump says will take place around late February, with Vietnam the most likely venue.
But much depends on the mercurial Trump, who has declared his outreach to the longtime US adversary to be a diplomatic coup and angrily denounced criticism that his first summit was mere symbolism.
North Korea watchers believe that Kim’s primary goal is relief from international sanctions and doubt he will suddenly give up his nuclear arsenal, which his dynastic regime has built for decades even through famine.
The sanctions “are not strong enough to create serious economic problems in the country, but they are strong enough to make economic growth difficult or unachievable,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul who studied in Pyongyang.
“In order to maintain stability in the country and to stay in power, the North Koreans know they will have to end or at least narrow the yawning gap between their economy and the economies of the neighboring countries, especially South Korea and China,” he said.
When Kim met Trump, the first-ever summit between the two nations, North Korea was seen as seeking a treaty or at least statement formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice.
But Victor Cha, the director of Asian studies at Georgetown University and former US negotiator with North Korea, said a peace declaration was ultimately symbolic.
“I don’t think they would say no to it. A peace declaration would be a sign of non-hostile intent. But they want tangible evidence of non-hostile intent, which would be removing some of the sanctions,” Cha said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed no let-up in sanctions until North Korea denuclearizes. And many US sanctions involve human rights or corruption laws and cannot be lifted without intervention by Congress, which is unlikely to be sympathetic.
But Cha said the United States could offer relief indirectly through South Korea’s dovish government, working at the United Nations to remove sanctions that impede the restart of inter-Korean projects such as the Kaesong industrial complex.
The US is already preparing to ease restrictions on humanitarian aid and could offer to exchange liaison offices with Pyongyang, a step before diplomatic relations.
Trump points to North Korea’s halt of missile and nuclear tests as progress, two years after fears soared of war. US officials want a full accounting of all North Korean weapons sites as well as inspections.
But experts fear North Korea will agree only on dismantling outdated facilities while keeping its capacities. In 2008, North Korea invited international media to watch as it blew up a cooling tower at Yongbyon, which remains the regime’s main nuclear site.
South Korea and Japan have increasingly wondered if Trump — who has made “America First” his guiding worldview — would focus on ridding North Korea of its fast-moving program of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which threaten the mainland United States.
Pompeo in recent interviews has described North Korea diplomacy as a way to protect Americans.
“Fairly or unfairly, that’s being interpreted by our allies as a potential US willingness to cut a deal that only protects America and disregards the safety of our allies,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.
The summit also comes amid a prolonged impasse in negotiations on how much South Korea should pay the United States to maintain its 28,500 troops in the country.
“There are concerns that Trump may be so eager for a success that he may agree to signing a peace declaration, signing an ICBM-only agreement and even reducing US forces on the peninsula either in return for perhaps a freeze on Yongbyon production or in response to the ongoing stalemate in Seoul,” Klingner said.
Trump is a longstanding skeptic on the cost value of alliances and is demanding more from South Korea.
But any promise by Trump to Kim to pull out troops would likely meet wide opposition in Congress, fury from Japan’s conservative government and quiet unease from South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in is more supportive of the US presence than previous left-wing leaders.
And it is not even a given that North Korea would welcome a withdrawal. Lankov said that Pyongyang saw US forces on the peninsula as a counterweight to China — its closest ally, but which Pyongyang views as a longer-term concern.


Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

Algerian supporters celebrate in Guillotiere district in Lyon, central eastern France after the victory of their team over Nigeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) semi-final football match, on July 14, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 31 min 5 sec ago
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Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

  • Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening
  • Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

PARIS: Thousands of extra French police are set to be on duty later Friday in Paris and other major cities following clashes involving Algerian football fans that have touched off a debate about national identity.

Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening with excitement high in France which is home to a huge Algerian-origin population due to the country’s colonial history.

Thousands of people partied in the streets when Algeria won its quarter-final on July 11 and then again for the semifinal on July 14, but the celebrations were later marred by pillaging and street clashes. “I call on people celebrating, even if I understand their joy, to behave themselves,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement told a press conference on Wednesday.

Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe where crowds set off fireworks and flew flags from car windows last Sunday, which was also France’s national Bastille Day.Clashes with police in the early hours, following pillaging the week before, saw more than 200 people arrested, leading to condemnation from the police and government, as well as far-right politicians.

The fact that the semifinal coincided with Bastille Day, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces, irked nationalist politicians in particular who worry about the effects of immigration. “Like lots of French people, I was shocked to see French people take down the French flag and put up the Algerian one,” far-right politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said on Friday morning.

Dupont-Aignan said the French-born Algeria fans, many of whom have dual nationality, could “go back” to north Africa if their preference was for Algeria. “I want to ask these young people, who are a minority I hope: France has welcomed you, fed you, educated you, looked after you, but if you prefer Algeria, if it’s better than France, go back to Algeria!"

Violence has flared in France in the past after major football games involving Algeria including during World Cup games in 2014, which led far-right leader Marine Le Pen to propose stripping rioters of their French nationality.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” a spokesperson for Le Pen’s National Rally party, Sebastien Chenu, said Monday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria... there are problems.”

A France-Algeria friendly in 2001 in Paris saw the French national anthem copiously booed in what was the first meeting on the pitch between the countries since Algeria’s independence in 1962 following 130 years of French rule.

The National Rally has called for Algeria fans to be barred from the Champs-Elysees on Friday, a demand dismissed as impractical and unfair by the Paris police force. “For me, the people coming to the Champs-Elysees are joyous citizens,” police chief Lallement told the press conference.

Others have pointed out that the overwhelming majority of fans marked Algeria’s last two victories in the Africa Cup peacefully and that many Franco-Algerians feel free to celebrate the successes of both countries. “We are saddened by the events of July 14,” Faiza Menai from Debout l’Algerie, a collective that unites members of the Algerian diaspora in France, told AFP on Thursday.

She recalled that France had seen six months of violent demonstrations during the so-called “yellow vest” protests against the government, which were supported by Le Pen and other far-right groups. The football violence was caused by not only by Algerians, she said, and was the result of an angry minority living frustrated lives in low-income and neglected suburban areas that ring French cities.

“It’s a pity that there are people who show up just to cause trouble. As in the case of the yellow vests, you have these young guys who missed the point — they come in from the suburbs and take advantage of the situation to get their revenge,” she said.

Her group plans to send out volunteers in florescent orange vests to the Champs Elysees to “try to limit the damage by raising awareness among supporters and lending a hand to authorities.”

Azouz Begag, a novelist and former minister in France’s government in 2005-2007, called on fellow Franco-Algerians to “state again after the match against Senegal that they are in their home in France, that they pay taxes and are voters.“The public spaces of the republic are theirs,” he wrote in Le Monde.