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Two Koreas begin removal of mines from Joint Security Area: ROK, By Dagyum Ji
Move following signing of military agreement in Pyongyang last month
Seoul and Pyongyang on Monday began the process of removing landmines from the Joint Security Area (JSA) and Cheorwon County, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced, as part of measures to implement an inter-Korean military agreement signed in Pyongyang last month.
That agreement saw the North and South commit to demilitarizing the JSA through the setting up of a trilateral consultative body between Seoul, Pyongyang, and the United Nations Command (UNC) “to consult and implement measures to demilitarize” the area.
Location of Dokgeum-ri, Site for Pilot Project for Joint Recovery Operation
As a first step, the two Koreas and the UNC on Monday began removing the landmines – a process expected to last 20 days.
In a written statement, the defense ministry said the South will deploy an engineer corps to sweep for mines in the eastern and western area of woodlands and areas surrounding surveillance towers in the JSA.
The North has not publicly confirmed the move.
When the removal of landmines in the region is complete, the three parties will remove guard posts, personnel, and firearms within five days, according to the annex of last month’s military agreement.
The two Koreas and the UNC will also “withdraw unnecessary surveillance equipment.”
Once the demilitarization of the JSA is complete, the trilateral consultative body will decide issues including the composition, mission, and the operation methods of a joint administrative body for the area.
Monday saw the defense ministry also announce a plan to remove landmines near Hill 281 or Arrowhead in Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from October 1 and November 30.
The measure is part of the Inter-Korean Joint Operation to Recover Remains within the DMZ pilot project, which will be carried out between April 1 and October 31 next year, according to last month’s military agreement.
Minesweeping will be conducted for four hours a day from 1000 to 1200 and from 1500 to 1700 local time, though working hours can be extended or reduced depending on the circumstances.
This is the first time that the two Koreas have worked to excavate the remains of soldiers in the DMZ, where around 200 remains of South Korean soldiers and 300 remains of foreign combatants are estimated to be buried.
In Monday’s statement, the South Korean defense ministry said it aims to establish an inter-Korean road within the joint remains recovery site within the year.
The two Koreas have agreed to construct a 12 meter-wide road to facilitate progress in the joint recovery operations.
Seoul and Pyongyang must also notify the other side of the composition of the Joint Remains Recovery Team — made up of 80-100 personnel — by the end of February.
North Korea will not disarm unilaterally, without trust in U.S.: Ri Yong Ho, By Hamish Macdonald
Trust building must come before anything else, DPRK foreign minister tells UNGA
North Korea will in no way unilaterally disarm and that the U.S. must first and foremost build trust with North Korea, the country’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Saturday.
Ri also said that North Korea was “unwavering” in its commitment to implementing the joint declaration signed in Singapore by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances, there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,” Ri said.
“The primary task for effectively implementing the DPRK-U.S. joint statement should be bringing down the barrier of mistrust,” he added.
The foreign minister told the UNGA that U.S. attempts to coerce North Korea into denuclearization will not work and that corresponding steps must be taken by both sides in order to advance progress between the two countries.
Sanctions were directly referenced by Ri as a barrier to bilateral progress and as an example of U.S. efforts to coerce the DPRK.
“The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant about us but the problem is that the continued sanctions are continuing our mistrust,” Ri said.
The minister said that the current diplomatic impasse between both countries is a result of such pressure that he said was contrary to trust building. Ri also sought to contrast this with the relatively rapid progress achieved in inter-Korean relations in 2018.
“The recent dramatic improvement of the North-South relations and the atmosphere of cooperation clearly show how decisive the role of trust building can be,” he said.
“If the party to this issue of denuclearization were South Korea and not the U.S. the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would not have come to such a deadlock,” Ri added.
The subject of North Korea-U.S. relations have been raised several times during the course of the week at the UN by a number of member states.
This includes at two UN Security Council (UNSC) meetings, chaired by Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo respectively. Both stated that sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearizes.
Ri had previously met with Pompeo on Wednesday, during which he extended Pompeo an invitation to Pyongyang from Kim Jong Un.
It is expected that Pompeo will be discussing plans to hold a second summit between the two leaders, which Trump said could occur relatively soon.
Paid in full: North Korea’s changing wage system, By Peter Ward
Official sources suggest employers have increased freedom to hand out bonuses and benefits
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has presided over quiet but significant legal changes in the country. Market prices and market forces are becoming central to how the economy works, not only in practice, but increasingly in law. One area where big changes are to be found is in the price of labor – i.e.
Rodong Sinmun publishes rare travelogue hailing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, By Dagyum Ji
DPRK state media spotlights Beijing’s push for large-scale regional infrastructure development
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday published a rare piece of travel reportage, describing a visit by two journalists to three Chinese cities and a detailed appraisal of Beijing’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Reporters from the daily newspaper, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), visited Daqing and Harbin city in Heilongjiang Province and Hohhot city, the capital of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
“We recently learned about the great fruition that Chinese people bear in our journey to cover China’s Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region,” the report – published on the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China – reads.
Reporters visited an urban planning exhibition and an oil field museum in the Daqing region – home to China’s biggest oil field – the Rodong reported, explaining that crude oil is connected to the city’s economic development and the improvement of the people’s living standards.
The journalists developed a “deeper understanding on past, present, and future of Daqing city,” the article, titled “Trip to China: Huge land moving forward vibrantly with the struggle to build a great modern socialist country,” said.
The Rodong linked the visit to the BRI — also known as “One Belt, One Road” — a major infrastructure and trade initiative launched by Beijing in 2013.
The Chinese government hopes to “achieve prosperity and development by strengthening international cooperation and jointly establishing ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’” the Rodong said.
“The plan has now its own framework five years after ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ international initiative was proposed.”
The DPRK newspaper stressed the connection between the Daqing city and the BRI.
“We learned that Daqing city plays the role of a supply depot in implementing the Belt and Road Initiative’s international cooperation, based on its natural resources and natural geographical advantages.”
Citing the construction of a second oil pipeline between China and Russia, the Rodong reported the city would become a “fresh growth engine for general development of the Daqing.”
On the second leg of the trip, the reporters visiting sites including the HIT Robot Group (HRG) and theHAO International Logistics Co., Ltd.
The reporters praised local company HAO International Logistics Co., Ltd, which runs a freight train service between Harbin city and Europe and Harbin-Russia cargo trains.
Harbin’s infrastructure is described as a “dynamic force to promote international cooperation by exporting advanced generating equipment and a foothold for logistics distribution connecting economic districts of China’s interior to Europe.”
“We could observe the development of Heilongjiang Province pursuing the establishment of the great modern socialist country of a new era with their own distinct features…,” the Rodong reported.
State media reported that the North Korean leader said the researchers at the innovation park “have fulfilled excellent achievements in science and technology research… contributing to the agricultural development of the country.”
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also reported that Kim had “marveled at the high-level of automation and well-established integrated control system” during his visit to the rail traffic control center.
DPRK state-run has also mentioned the BRI in the past, however, though never in quite as much detail.
One expert said it was noteworthy that the Rodong Sinmun had reported on regions which don’t share a border with the North such as Jilin and Liaoning Province.
“The fact that they visited cities in Heilongjiang Province shows that the country pays attention to the connection between North Korea, China, and Russia,” Lee Chang-ju, a researcher at the Sejong Institute and author of “All about Belt and Road Initiative,” told NK News.
“The travel indicates that the country may have intention to push multilateral cooperation… between North Korea, China, Russia or Mongolia using Heilongjiang Province or Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region as a foothold.”
Russia detains North Korean tanker on safety grounds, By Leo Byrne
DPRK vessel failed routine safety inspection with six detainable deficiencies
Russian port authorities have detained a North Korean oil tanker for failing a safety inspection, Port State Control (PSC) records of the region show. A previous NK Pro report highlighted the ship’s visit to the Russian Far Eastern city of Nakhodka, the first such reported trip to the region by a DPRK tanker in months.
How secondary sanctions impact Russia’s position on North Korea, By Anthony V. Rinna
Moscow sees the measures as part of a wider plan to undermine its foreign policy
Demonstrating its traditional solidarity with Beijing over the Korean security crisis, Moscow has backed Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s plea for loosening economic restrictions against Pyongyang, made last week during a ministerial-level meeting at the UN.
That Moscow should support such measures should come as no surprise, given that Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov declared only weeks prior that the time had come for the UN Security Council to consider easing sanctions against the DPRK.
Morgulov’s comments come only months after he affirmed that while Russia did have an obligation to comply with UN punitive economic measures, it had no need to adhere to unilateral U.S. sanctions against North Korea.
Unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed against the DPRK have, in fact, affected Russia’s ties to North Korea. Thus even if the United Nations were to loosen restrictions placed on Pyongyang via Security Council resolutions, the U.S.’s own sanctions will likely remain problematic for Moscow’s hopes at closer economic cooperation with the DPRK.
Last August, Washington targeted the Russian company Profinet over trade with the DPRK. Later, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, citing an executive order, announced that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted two Russian firms, Primorye Maritime Logistics and Gudzon Shipping over transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korea.
In response, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov described the U.S.’s continued application of sanctions as a “spiral” perpetuated by the American political elite, decrying what he saw as the United States’ lack of regard for the DPRK-Russia relationship.
Although the particular laws cited as the justification for applying the most recent sets of sanctions did not specifically mention Russia, there has nevertheless been a growing tendency for U.S. policymakers to draft legislation related to North Korea that simultaneously takes aim at Moscow.
Perhaps the most notable grouping of the DPRK and Russia under the same umbrella in an American policy context is the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
The law devotes entire separate sections to North Korea and Russia, respectively. The Act’s provisions on North Korea, however in some cases specifically mention Russia in relation to sanctions compliance. In other cases the law contains guidelines for dealing with violations of US policies in areas that have been, in Washington’s view part of the growing ties between North Korea and Russia.
In addition to that law, there are other proposed pieces of legislation currently in the midst of the U.S. legislative process that mention Russia in the context of American policy toward the DPRK. Some of the bills currently under consideration by lawmakers include the North Korea Follow the Money Act as well as the North Korea Ballistic Missile Investigations Act.
These legislative proposals, both of which have been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, call upon organs of the United States government to investigate and document instances where the Russian Federation has had a role in helping the DPRK procure materials illicitly or otherwise circumvent sanctions.
Another example of the U.S. policy community’s continued calls for action against Russia in light of the North Korea crisis is the Korean Interdiction and Sanctions Modernization Act. The bill, which has been referred to the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee, calls for U.S. authorities to monitor ports located in sovereign Russian territory for illegal activities involving North Korean vessels. Reactions to the tendency toward including Russia in American policy making on the DPRK are sure to be mixed. Depending on your perspective, Washington is either acting against Russian entities from a basis of legitimacy to enforce international sanctions, or is using the Korean security crisis as a pretext for continuing to attack Russia in it own right.
The U.S.’s targeting of Russia with DPRK-related sanctions and other legislative initiatives, as an addition to the existing blistering U.S.-led sanctions regime directed against Russia itself, will likely harden Moscow’s position against U.S. interests in the Korean security crisis.