Isolated North Korea pulling back even more

Joong Ang Daily
August 01, 2006

With North Korea more isolated than ever from the international community over its nuclear program and recent missile launches, Pyongyang is taking steps to tighten controls on its people in a bid to show it can defy the international community, North Koreans interviewed in Beijing said.

“It seems that we have to sing the revolutionary songs again,” said one North Korean in Beijing, saying it was time for his country to get mentally tougher. “Nobody listens to us, thus the only way left is to stick together,” the North Korean said.

If Pyongyang hoped to gain more concessions in nuclear negotiations and resolve the issue of financial sanctions imposed by Washington on Banco Delta Asia through its missile launch, the results have been the opposite.

A United Nations Security Council resolution backed by Pyongyang’s long-time ally, Beijing, was adopted. The Bank of China also froze North Korean accounts at its Macao branch, a Korean lawmaker has said.

In addition, a senior official of the United States Treasury Department said recently, Singapore and Vietnam have made commitments to clamp down on illicit North Korean financial activities such as money laundering.

A source in Seoul who is familiar with North Korea’s circumstances said yesterday that Pyongyang has decided to halt exchanges with the outside until April of next year. The Arirang Festival scheduled for this month has already been cancelled.

Experts said a series of economic measures aimed at reviving the North’s ailing economy, which have been underway since 2001, will also likely be put on hold.

“Inside the North, there are even some calling for a halt of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mount Kumgang tours,” said the source, who added that large numbers of North Korean college students are submitting requests to enlist in the military.

Recently, a senior North Korean official on a visit to Beijing said the North is fully prepared to engage in “a march of suffering.” Recent rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang reflects a war-like atmosphere in the country. The state-run Rodong Sinmun has warned that “invaders would be swept away by the fierce anger of the country.”

A government official in Seoul yesterday admitted that in the short run, diplomatic efforts to lure Pyongyang back to nuclear negotiations would be tough. “We are in a difficult situation, but what else can we do but try?” said the official.


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