South Korea’s President, Yoon Suk Yeol, has assured he will raise alarms to global leaders about the imperative need to stringently execute UN sanctions on North Korea, which aims to impede the nation’s underhanded activities that fund its weapons programs. The discussions will take place at annual summits in Indonesia and India this week.
Yoon plans to be in Jakarta for four days starting Tuesday, attending a litany of summits alongside fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Following this, he will proceed to New Delhi on Friday for a conference with prominent affluent and developing nations.
Yoon outlined his strategy for the summits, expressing a resolve to push the international community into countering North Korea’s escalating missile and nuclear threats, and working cohesively towards its denuclearization. Faithful implementation of the UN Security Council sanctions will effectively obstruct North Korea’s economic means of advancing its weapons programs, he asserts.
Despite grappling with deep-seated economic woes, mainly due to its excessive pandemic restrictions, North Korea has been setting records with missile tests since last year. South Korean officials suggest that the North’s weapons programs are increasingly subsidized by illegal activities including cyber hacking and the trade of prohibited items. They also report that a significant number of North Korean workers remain in China and Russia, in defiance of a UN mandate to repatriate all North Korean guest workers, a key revenue source for the struggling nation, by December 2019.
Yoon intends to utilize the G20 summit to highlight the imperative need to deter North Korea from committing illicit activities, primarily crucial funding sources for its nuclear and missile development, including cryptocurrency theft, worker dispension overseas, maritime transshipments, among others.
North Korea’s expanding nuclear arsenal poses a significant security concern for South Korea, with further potential threats looming over the United States and Japan. North Korea’s long-range missiles are believed to be capable of reaching mainland U.S., whilst its short-range hardware could strike South Korea and Japan, both crucial U.S. allies.
In a tripartite summit in August at Camp David, a commitment was reached between Yoon, U.S. President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to engage in annual trilateral exercises. They agreed to establish a collaborative working group to escalate efforts against North Korean cyber threats and circumvention of sanctions.
Yoon suggests North Korea is suffering its worst economic crisis since Kim Jong Un commenced his rule in late 2011, with scarce resources being squandered on developing nuclear and missile capabilities, exacerbating everyday hardships for North Koreans and inducing persistent negative growth in the economy. Unless nuclear development ceases, the regime’s instability will only escalate, mentions Yoon.
North Korea has been seeking greater cooperation with China and Russia, both permanent UN Security Council members, who have repeatedly hindered attempts by the U.S. and others to toughen UN sanctions on the North, despite its prohibited missile tests. U.S. officials claim that North Korea has been providing Russia with artillery shells and other ammunitions for use in its conflict with Ukraine. Last week, President Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly exchanged letters, with Moscow seeking more ammunition from Pyongyang.
In the face of North Korea’s banned missile tests, Yoon urges China to make “constructive efforts to denuclearize North Korea,” emphasizing that its nuclear program disrupts regional order and vitiates China’s national interests.
Yoon plans to attend the South Korea-ASEAN summit, the ASEAN Plus Three summit, and the East Asia Summit, which will see the participation of the U.S., China, and Russia. He views the G20 summit as a platform for South Korea to spearhead collaborations addressing global challenges, intensifying contributions towards climate-vulnerable nations and enhancing cooperation for energy transition.