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Title NK Brief, February 22, 2018 Date 2018.02.28
Attach 180222_NK Brief_No2-3_(Grain imports, Olympics, nuclear program).pdf
□ North Korea’s grain imports tripled in 2017
North Korea’s grain imports from China last year showed a threefold increase over the same period of the previous year. Having analyzed a set of data released by the Chinese General Administration of Customs, Tae-jin Kwon, a South Korean expert on North Korean agriculture and the head of the Center for North Korea and North East Asia Studies of the GS & J Institute, disclosed this analysis to the Voice of America on February 14.

This means North Korean grain imports have more than tripled from 54,683 metric tons imported in 2016—the amount of imports totals $67.33 million, a 2.3-fold increase from $27.91 million in the previous year.

Wheat flour (81, 654 tons) made up 46 percent of the total North Korean imports, accounting for the largest part of the imports. This is followed by corn (57,887 tons) and rice (36,408 tons), along with starch and soybeans. In particular, corn imports grew more than 16 times compared to 3,125 tons the year before, and flour imports, which stood at 7,000 tons in the previous year (about twelvefold).

During December 2017, North Korea’s grain imports from China grew more than four times the amount it imported in the same period a year before. In particular, imports of flour increased to 25,000 tons, more than 22 times from the same period last year.

Last year, as the crackdown on the DPRK-China border tightened due to the international sanctions on North Korea, formal grain imports seem to have increased while the informal imports were restricted.

Although North Korea’s grain production in 2017 seems to have declined slightly from the previous year, its grain imports from China are expected to remain at the same level.

□ North Korea sends Kim Yong-chol to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games
North Korea notified South Korea that it would dispatch a high-level delegation headed by Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), to the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced that the North had sent a telephone message containing such information to the South on February 22.

In the telephone message, the MOU said, North Korea stated that Kim would be accompanied by Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, along with six others, and arrive in the South through the land route along the Seoul-Sinuiju line and visit the South for three days and two nights starting February 25, when the closing ceremony takes place.

A vice chairman of the WPK, Kim Yong-chol is also the head of the WPK United Front Department, which oversees North Korea’s policy toward South Korea.

Although Kim is subject to the sanctions independently imposed by South Korea and the United States, South Korea accepted the visit by the high-level North Korean delegation saying that “the participation of a high-level North Korean delegation in the closing ceremony will contribute to providing an occasion to improve the relations between the two Koreas and to make progress in establishing peace on the Korean peninsula, including the denuclearization of North Korea.”

Many people wonder whether the recent series of visits made by high-ranking North Koreans during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will lead to an improvement in inter-Korean as well as DPRK-US relations.

Earlier this month, Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, visited South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympic Games. She delivered in person to South Korean president Moon Jae-in her brother’s request for Moon to visit Pyongyang.

Kim Yong-chol is expected to meet with President Moon naturally during the closing ceremony as well as in separate meetings during his visit to the South, possibly opening the door to an improvement in inter-Korean relations and high-level discussions on the denuclearization of North Korea.

US presidential adviser Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Trump, is also expected to participate in the closing ceremony, thereby drawing public attention to a possible encounter between the two.

□ “We would never give up the nuclear program,” North Korea says
“Hoping that North Korea would abandon its nuclear program is more foolish than waiting for the seas to get dried up,” according to North Korea’s media mouthpiece, Rodong Sinmun.

While North Korea watchers debate the possibility of negotiation and dialogue taking place between North Korea and the United States, Rodong Sinmun made it clear in an op-ed commentary that Pyongyang has no intention to give up its nuclear weapons. “Neither sanctions nor provocations nor threats can ever undermine North Korea’s position as a nuclear weapons state,” it asserted. “It would be a wise option to take the stand to peacefully coexist
with North Korea, which has emerged quickly as a nation with the strategic nuclear capability,” the news agency reiterated.

North Korea has long asked for peaceful coexistence with the international community, once the latter recognizes it as a nuclear power. In particular, it has underlined that the United States should abandon its hostile policies toward Pyongyang.

On the same day, in a commentary titled “The Strong Sword of Justice to Tame the Nuclear Weapons of Oppression,” Rodong Sinmun asserted that North Korea’s nuclear force is “the powerful sword for defending peace as it can decisively tackle the nuclear threats and blackmail from the United States.” The state-run newspaper stressed that North Korea is “fully prepared to make the deadliest nuclear strike on the United States as it pleases at any random time and space.”

Claiming that North Korea has “intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, along with a hydrogen bomb known as the ‘Tsar-Bomba (or the King of Bombs)’, which it has succeeded in loading onto an ICBM,” the newspaper said that North Korea has “demonstrated its powerful nuclear strike capability to the world, not in words, but in reality.”

“The United States and other hostile forces that have denied and disparaged North Korea’s nuclear deterrent in the past became no longer able to make much ado about nothing,” it added.

Rodong Sinmun insisted that North Korea has developed its nuclear deterrent to “ultimately overwhelm and crush the violent and flagitious nuclear threats of the United States. . . . The nuclear weapons are our most reliable means of deterrence to prevent the United States from playing perilously with fire in the Korean peninsula,” it asserted.

It furthermore stated that because the United States would “never give up its malicious ambition to conquer the world by virtue of its superior nuclear power,” North Korea is “entirely just . . . to bolster up its strength with a much stronger determination."
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