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In a move that may give a boost to Kim Jong Il’s increasingly desperate regime, Chinese authorities announced the easing of trade restrictions between the North and Chinese border provinces. Daily NK reports that North Korean citizens are now able to open bank accounts in China and to settle transactions in Yuan. Daily NK reports on the ramifications of this move:
With the adoption of the system, North Korean people and companies can open Yuan bank accounts within China after some formalities and use the accounts for trade settlement with their Chinese business partners. Accordingly, North Korea is now able to buy foreign currencies such as dollars and euros with its Yuan income from trade. In addition, North Korea can legally bring in foreign currencies or send them to third countries
North Korean companies used to have difficulties of making a trade settlement with China in cash or by barter since the U.S. enacted financial sanctions on North Korea and China imposed economic sanctions regarding remittance and bank accounts after North Korea’s nuclear tests. However, China too suffered from the sanctions as the amount of Yuan smuggled into North Korea has skyrocketed proportional to the increasing volume of trade between North Korea and China.
By taking such measures, China is allowing North Koreans to help themselves through increasing trade and by giving them the opportunity to earn foreign currency. The results may help to ease some of the problems associated with the ongoing famine and thus help strengthen Kim’s grip on power.
UPDATE: Bloomberg reports that Japan will extend its sanctions on North Korea for lack of cooperation on denuclearization and other outstanding issues:
Japan will extend sanctions against North Korea for six months after the communist country failed to make progress on returning abducted citizens and dismantling its nuclear program, the government’s top spokesman said.
The government will announce details of the extension tomorrow following cabinet approval, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said during a press conference in Tokyo. Japan banned imports from North Korea and barred its ships from calling on Japanese ports after North Korea test-fired missiles and a nuclear device in 2006.
The timing of this announcement is interesting, seeing as how it comes just one day after the North unilaterally announced the Six-Party Talks stalement had been solved. This lends creedence to the position that nothing has really changed–at least as far as Japan’s conditions are concerned. Japan may be trying to signal its dissapointment that the abductee issue wasn’t mentioned in the latest meeting between Hill and Kim. Economically, the sanctions won’t affect North Korea much as they’ve already been in place. All that is happening is the period the sanctions are effective is being extended.
An unidentified inside source relayed the following to the Daily NK:
“These days in the jangmadang, conflicts between traders and managers or safety agents are getting serious. They yell at and fight with each other. The residents are not afraid of the agents, compared to the past. It seems that people’s resentment towards the absurdity of the regime is growing.”
North Korean representative Choe Myong Nam called South Korea’s recent renewed interest in North Korean human rights “irresponsible” and warned of “negative repercussions.”
When a South Korean representative expressed concerns about the North Korean human rights situation at the 2007 UNHRC session, a North Korean delegate merely said the representative’s remarks “run counter to the spirit of the joint inter-Korean declaration and the atmosphere of reconciliation prevailing on the Korean Peninsula.”
Choe’s remarks at the latest session show that North Korea has apparently decided to strongly resist the new South Korean government’s hard-line policy on the issue.
When a representative of European Union chair Slovenia called for extending the mandate of the UN special rapporteur on North Korean human rights, Choe called the UN “extremely politicized.” He said the demand is based on a “double standard applied selectively to North Korea” and is “neither justified nor accepted (via Chosun Ilbo).”
China will help pressure North Korea to follow through on its denuclearization process, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi verbally assured Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Though there were no details as to what that pressure will entail. Rice continues to be upbeat about the future of the Six-Party talks, telling reporters:
We are the cusp of something very special here…Now it is time to move on because the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is in everyone’s interest…What I am expecting from China is what I am expecting from others: Use all influence possible with the North Koreans to convince them that it is time to move forward (via AP)
Yang was also optimistic:
[China is] consistently committed to the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula…The Chinese side hopes that the parties will treasure the results we have already produced, which have not come easily (via AP).