The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 13           April 21, 2003  
U.S. government pursues sanctions
on north Korea, Pyonyang says
it’s a ‘prelude to war’
After months-long prodding by the U.S. government, the United Nations Security Council set April 9 as the date to begin a discussion on potential sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which Washington and Tokyo have accused of being a "nuclear threat." The U.S. government has long sought a formal rebuke of Pyongyang by April 10, the date its withdrawal from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty becomes official.

U.S. State Department officials praised the decision to set UN Security Council consultations on Washington’s request as "the logical next step in the process."

The north Korean government said it considered the meeting "a prelude to war," adding it will not recognize any decisions on the matter from this UN body. "The Iraqi war shows that to allow disarming through inspection does not help avert a war but rather sparks it," said a government statement, issued by the official Korea Central News Agency April 6.

At the same time, the U.S. rulers moved unilaterally to block a sale of missile technology by Pyongyang to the government of Pakistan. Furthermore, U.S. government officials are seeking to increase economic pressure on the DPRK, by implementing measures to block the flow of cash sent by Korean workers living abroad to their families in north Korea.

The U.S. rulers have been pressing the UN Security Council to adopt a statement condemning north Korea for its withdrawal from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and for the removal of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from the country earlier this year. The White House has accused the DPRK of planning to use its nuclear power plant in Yongbyon to produce weapons-grade plutonium for manufacturing a nuclear bomb.

The Chinese government has opposed this campaign by Washington. Beijing and Moscow are the two among the five UN Security Council members with veto power that have so far blocked UN sanctions against north Korea.

"Sanctions will not do, and we are opposed to the wanton use of sanctions or the threat of sanctions," China’s foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said at the end of March.

Beijing has backed Pyongyang’s demand that Washington hold direct talks with the DPRK to resolve the crisis. At the same time, the Chinese government is pressuring north Korea to adopt a more conciliatory stance. An article in the April 4 Washington Post stated that Chinese vice-foreign minister Wang Yi met with DPRK foreign minister Paek Nam Sun in Beijing in mid-February and supposedly warned north Korea it was "playing with fire," in threatening to test long-range missiles and take other steps that could be used by Washington as a pretext for new aggressive measures. "Sometime after Feb. 18," the article continued, "China closed the pipeline from the Daqing oil fields to North Korea for three days. China explained the move to North Korea as a technical problem but ‘Pyongyang didn’t believe us,’ said a senior Chinese scholar with knowledge of the action."

In a statement released by the Korean Central News Agency April 3, the north Korean government, while defending its withdrawal from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty as necessary in the face of serious threats to the state, put the blame on Washington for "doggedly opposing [Pyongyang’s] constructive proposal for the conclusion of a nonaggression treaty."

North Korean officials have stated repeatedly their interest in reaching a negotiated agreement directly with Washington that will guarantee the country’s security, while the DPRK would commit to not build "unconventional" weapons. Washington has refused to hold any one-on-one talks with the north Korean government. It insists instead it would consider taking part only in "multilateral" talks that would include Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington.

The north Korean government has continued to publicly express its concern that the DPRK could be a target itself of a U.S. attack after the assault on Baghdad.

A number of articles in the U.S. big-business press asserted at the end of March that Pyongyang seems to be cautious. "Both U.S. and South Korean officials say they haven’t noticed any unusual military maneuvers by Pyongyang in recent weeks," said an article in the March 28 Wall Street Journal, for example. "A senior aide to South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun said his government has expected Pyongyang to use the U.S. focus on Iraq to take provocative steps, such as testing a long-range missile. ‘But it seems like North Korea isn’t making such moves at this point,’ the official said."

In the meantime, the Pentagon announced April 1 that it will maintain an unspecified number of stealth fighter jets and other planes in the southern part of the peninsula, after the conclusion of joint military exercises by U.S. and south Korean troops.

Maurice Strong, a UN envoy to north Korea, said after a recent visit to that country, "I think a war is unnecessary. It’s unthinkable, its consequences. And yet, it is entirely possible."

The Japanese government, for its part, has joined Washington in putting pressure on the DPRK by clamping down on Korean residents in Japan who remit millions of dollars a year to their families in north Korea. The effort has focused on repressive measures against the General Association of Korean Residents of Japan, or Chongryun, whose members largely consider themselves to be overseas nationals of north Korea. The organization holds seats in the DPRK’s national assembly.

"The current campaign against North Korea began in April last year when Japanese authorities put pressure on the privately owned Ashikaga Bank to suspend remittances to North Korea," said an article in the March 27 Far Eastern Economic Review. "Next month the Japanese government is expected to begin strict surveillance of cargo transported to North Korea from Japan." Former Chongryun supporters have alleged that this transport, primarily handled by a north Korean-operated freighter, the Mangyongbong, is used by Chongryun members to smuggle sophisticated electronic equipment, computer parts, software and machine tools "which North Korea needs for its missile programs," according to this article.  
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