Trump reaffirms North Korea sanctions

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook to the White House. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2019

Trump reaffirms North Korea sanctions

  • President rejects concessions to facilitate inter-Korean economic projects

SEOUL: US President Donald Trump has rejected suggestions that he could allow concessions on North Korean sanctions, during discussions in Washington with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

At a press conference at the White House, Trump suggested that he would be open to dialogue with Pyongyang on the condition of complete denuclearization.

“I think that sanctions are, right now, at a level that’s a fair level. And I really believe something very significant is going to happen,” he said. “We could always increase them, but I didn’t want to do that at this time.”

There had been suggestions that some sanctions could be eased in order to facilitate cross-border economic projects, but Trump stated: “This isn’t the right time.”

Inter-Korean initiatives, including an industrial park, railway link and tourism opportunities, have been suspended as a result of the North conducting a series of intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear warhead tests.

Moon expressed hope that a new summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could jump-start the denuclearization process, after the collapse of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in February.

“The important task that I face is to maintain dialogue and also express to the international community that a third US-North Korea Summit will be held in the near future,” Moon told reporters in the Oval Office. “The Republic of Korea is absolutely on the same page when it comes to the complete denuclearization of North Korea.”

Trump remained cautious about a third encounter with Kim, but did not rule it out.

“A third summit could happen. It’s step by step, it’s not a fast process … If it goes fast, it’s not going to be a proper deal.”

There remain doubts over the South’s optimism for progress, however. Moon Keun-shik, an analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, said: “Moon was not able to hear what he had wanted from Trump, but he has cemented his role as the mediator over the nuclear issue.”

Many North Korea experts, though, also queried Moon’s ability to bridge the gap between Trump and Kim.

“Moon and Trump failed to narrow a gap over practical issues, including sanctions on North Korea,” said Chung Se-hyun, a former minister for Korean unification. “If you say there was no deal at the Hanoi Summit, there is also no deal from this Moon-Trump summit.”

Shin Bum-cheol, director of the Center for Security and Unification at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said Moon’s pursuit of a “good enough deal” for partial relief of sanctions in exchange for gradual denuclearization was rebuffed by Trump, leaving Seoul little option but to persuade Pyongyang to meet US terms.

“I question if Kim will accept Moon’s proposal to hold a summit, as he has shown his resolution to respond to the current sanctions,” Shin said.

North Korean state media reported Kim had vowed a “serious blow” to those imposing sanctions on his regime prior to the Trump-Moon Summit, during an address to the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

The remark was construed as a firm stance against economic and trade sanctions imposed by the international community, rather than a threat, as it did not explicitly mention the South, the US, nor threaten military action.

US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019

US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.