Justice Department indicts North Korean businesses . . .
The U.S. Justice Department released an indictment last week accusing a network of 28 North Korean and five Chinese citizens of illicitly channelling C$3.3 billion for North Korea’s nuclear weapon proliferation program. The defendants include current and former executives of the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean state-operated foreign exchange bank, which the U.S and the UN Security Council blacklisted in 2013 and in 2017, respectively. According to The Washington Post, the indictment is the largest criminal enforcement action against North Korea to date. This action comes on the heels of North Korea’s announcement of “new policies for further increasing the [North’s] nuclear war deterrence.”
More pressure for North Korea’s struggling economy . . .
The U.S. sanctions will likely complicate North Korea’s economic troubles amidst the pandemic, and increase its reliance on China. North Korea still reports no cases of the novel coronavirus and has begun slowly relaxing a strict national lockdown, which started in late January. Childcare centres, middle and high schools reopened today; however, all schools are required to follow anti-virus measures such as temperature checks, wearing masks, physical distancing, and heightened sanitization. China exempted North Korea from the temporary border-crossing ban, and according to Daily NK, ‘pre-approved’ North Korean traders can travel with health certificates and work-related permits.
Calls for relaxing sanctions, resuming talks . . .
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Minister has called for the U.S. to resume talks with North Korea rather than escalating the situation. Since last December, China and Russia have been proposing to lift some sanctions on North Korean exports including statues, seafood, and textiles. Both countries still host North Korean workers despite the UN Security Council sanctions. Amidst the pandemic, international human rights experts, World Health Organization officials, and non-government organizations have been calling for an easing of sanctions to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to North Korea. At the same, South Korean politicians such as Kim Hong-gul, President of the South Korean Council for Reconciliation, is pushing for the resumption of high-level inter-Korean exchanges.
- Daily NK: North Korean schools to reopen on the first of June
- Nikkei Asia Review: Kim Jong Un vows to further bolster nuclear war deterrence
- The Washington Post: US charges North Koreans in $2.5B sanctions-busting scheme