SHANGHAI, December 15. /TASS/. North Korea is very unlikely to abandon its program aimed at developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them under the pressure of sanctions, Executive Director of the Institute of International Relations and Director of the Center for Korea Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Liu Ming told TASS on Monday. According to him, the pressure against Pyongyang will not produce results in the near future.
"As for whether the increasing pressure is effective or not, in the near future it is pointless," he said. "North Korea has achieved a rather high safety margin. Undoubtedly, as sanctions grow, particularly those aimed at putting an end to normal trade and economic relations between China and North Korea, as well as to oil supplies, Pyongyang will face difficulties. Under this situation, North Korea will opt for strengthening its relations with Russia in the hope of getting help from Moscow, particularly in the field of energy supply," the Chinese expert said, adding that "if Russia will also take certain measures to exert pressure, then North Korea is bound to be confronted with great problems."
At the same time, in Liu Ming’s words, it wouldn’t be right to say that North Korea will yield to pressure in the face of those difficulties. "Pyongyang will be able to hold on for a rather long time," he said, adding that the United States planned to make the most use of sanctions before trying to find a solution through military means.
"The United States has been studying North Korea’s response in order to understand if it will be ready to make compromises in the face of increasing sanctions. If Pyongyang comes back to the negotiating table, Washington will be satisfied. If that does not happen, then Washington will consider other options, particularly the military one, including the deployment of nuclear weapons to South Korea. Taking the current situation into account, it will take time for the sanctions to make effect," the expert pointed out.
According to Liu Ming, if China and Russia, who have always had special relations with North Korea, increase pressure, they will lose Pyongyang’s trust completely. "In this case, China and Russia should act differently from the United States and South Korea to maintain their channel for communication with North Korea. If China and Russia behave like the United States and increase sanctions, then the communication channel will be there no more. China is unlikely to do that," the expert said, noting that the situation with Russia was similar.
"In the near future sanctions will not prove very effective, but in the long run, they may slow the development of North Korea’s nuclear program due to the lack of funds, technical issues and reducing energy supply. However, it will take one to two years. As far as the full abandonment of nuclear program under the pressure of sanctions, it is very unlikely to happen," the Chinese expert concluded.
North Korea may soon forward an initiative to start talks with the US to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, he went on.
"It is possible that North Korea may forward new terms for starting the talks. Kim Jong-un is to make a New Year address in the next two weeks. A proposal to hold negotiations may be voiced in this address. This proposal may include a demand for the US to get down to talks without preliminary conditions," the expert said.
It is possible that the US and North Korea may resume negotiations, he said. "So, there remains tenseness and confrontation on the one side, while on the other side a dialogue may start that the US may agree to. A start of the dialogue between the US and North Korea will definitely ease tensions in the region to some extent," the expert said.
The ongoing military and sanctions pressure placed by the US on North Korea is one of the main factors of the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Liu Ming believes. "The military pressure by the US will continue; however, in this regard it can’t be said that the US will definitely use force and make a preventive strike. Still, there remains a danger that the actions of one side may lead to a stricter response from the other side. For example, the situation may escalate if the US starts examining North Korean vessels, the way it was with Soviet commercial ships that went to Cuba during the Caribbean Crisis," he said.
The expert believes the situation to be tense, overall, but "the tensions have not yet reached a level that might trigger a war." "The possibility of an armed conflict is still low, but the confrontation will continue," he said.
On November 29, Pyongyang made the first nuclear tests in 75 days, which led to an upsurge in tensions on the Korean Peninsula. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a Hwasong-15 missile reached a height of 4,475 km and covered a distance of 950 km in 53 minutes. The missile fell down 250 km away from Japan’s northern prefecture of Aomori, Japan’s defense ministry reported. The brand new missile may cover a distance of up to 13,000 km and so may target almost the entire territory of the US, experts say.