N.Korea Keeps Trying to Weaken Sanctions
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's younger sister Yo-jong will come to South Korea on Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This is the first time that a member of the North's ruling Kim dynasty is visiting the South, and some North Korea watchers say she is the de facto No. 2 official in the reclusive state. Bandleader-cum-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol is already in South Korea leading North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra, which shows that Kim Jong-un has a lot riding on the Winter Olympics.
Choe Hwi, chairman of the North's National Sports Guidance Committee and a member of the high-level delegation, is on a UN travel blacklist, and South Korea will be violating the sanctions if it lets him in. North Korea probably thought that including Choe with Yo-jong would make it impossible for South Korea to refuse, but it is also clearly bent on breaking the sanctions where it can. The government here has already granted exemptions by allowing airplane and ship traffic from the North.
South Korea will find itself in a tough spot if it lets Choe in. Kim Yo-jong is not on any UN black list, but she is on a separate U.S. Treasury blacklist and subject to having her overseas assets frozen. And if the high-level North Korean delegation flies to South Korea, it would flaunt international rules again.
North Korea's state-run Rodong Sinmun daily screamed Wednesday that the resumption of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises after the Olympics would not only damage inter-Korean relations but also drive the nuclear standoff to the point of "ruin." Since President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on Jan. 4 to postpone the annual joint military exercises until after the Olympics, the North has been frantically demanding that they are permanently halted, and it just keeps on pushing its luck.
Kim Jong-un is clearly using the Winter Olympics to drive a wedge between South Korea and the international community. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said before heading over to South Korea that he is concerned about Kim "hijacking" the peaceful message of the game and rightly described his regime as "murderous." By sending Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un may be putting the final touches on this plan. He wants to weaken international sanctions in any way he can, but that must not happen until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons. If the sanctions fail, the outcome would be unimaginable.
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