N.Korea Demands Talks as Sanctions Bite

      April 05, 2016 09:48

      North Korea on Monday called for talks with the U.S. a month after the UN Security Council enforced tougher sanctions against the North following its latest nuclear test.

      A spokesman for the powerful National Defense Commission complained of "unilateral sanctions" but added "preparing steps for negotiations" is a more fundamental solution than military pressure.

      The spokesman said "a war of aggression" against the North "to stifle it militarily created the worst crisis in which it may make a retaliatory nuclear strike at the U.S. mainland any moment."

      The Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang mouthpiece in Japan, also urged Washington to negotiate with Pyongyang in order to "avoid the crisis of war and destruction."

      The North added that it has grown used to sanctions and claimed the sanctions strengthened its self-reliance.

      But there was a hint that the sanctions are biting. The commission likened them to the siege of Leningrad by Nazi Germany during World War II and added the "evil hand" of sanctions stretched deep into all corners of North Korea.

      Pundits said the call for talks demonstrates the concrete impact the latest sanctions are having.

      Singaporean media cited data that the North's exports dropped following the latest UN sanctions, which had a direct impact on its economy.

      China has apparently enforced tougher border checks on imports of North Korean minerals and coal shipments.

      "It's impossible for China to enforce crackdowns along the whole 1,400 km border with North Korea, but Beijing does appear to be applying increased pressure against the North in financial and other dealings," a source said.

      At the nuclear security summit in Washington last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama "sweeping" sanctions against North Korea.

      Pyongyang's latest threats, experts say, appear to be a last-ditch effort to intimidate the international community in order to create divisions between them ahead of a massive Workers Party congress in May.

      A senior government official here said, "At a time when China is mentioning the need for both sanctions and negotiations, North Korea is attempting to foment divisions among the international community by raising the negotiating card."

      But South Korea's Defense Ministry rejected North Korea's call for talks. "Now is the time to focus on implementing sanctions over North Korea's reckless behavior," said ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun.

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