SEOUL, South Korea – Two months after failing to win the much-needed sanction of President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travels to Russia to gain his help as US Trade sanctions hurt the already weak ones Economy of his country.
North Korea has no signs of financial or humanitarian crisis. However, some observers say that the sanctions that have been tightened in recent years are gradually eroding Kim's foreign currency reserves and he is desperately seeking ways to introduce hard currency. His propaganda service already states that North Koreans can only survive with "water and air". Russia, Russia and China call for the facilitation of sanctions, although they are both members of the UN Security Council, which has approved a total of eleven sanctions against North Korea since 2006. Some experts say Kim could meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting on Thursday in Vladivostok, urging them to strongly oppose the sanctions, enforce them less strictly and send humanitarian food aid to North Korea.
It is still unclear how much support Kim could receive from Putin. Russia, along with China, is unlikely to want to be open about sanctions and diplomatic quarrels with the United States. Over 90% of North Korean foreign trade passed through China, with which it shares a long, porous land border.
The analyst Go Myong-Hyun from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul said Kim's Russia trip, the first of a North Korean leader since 201
What is probably still on the agenda is a request from Kim for food aid. In February, North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, called for an unusual call for "urgent" food aid. North Korean officials blamed bad weather and sanctions for the shortage.
The analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul, Cho Bong-hyun, said North Korea needs more than a million tons of food aid, so Russia should provide hundreds of thousands of tons of corn, flour and other foods. Russia could send food to North Korea, but mostly in a secret way, Cho said.
Kim will probably also raise thousands of North Korean workers in Russia, who must return home along with other North Korean workers overseas later this year under UN sanctions.
"There is a high likelihood that Kim will ask Putin to be flexible in this matter because it is related to the influx of dollars," said Asan Institute analyst Shin Beomchul. He said North Korea could try to persuade Russia to overlook North Korean visitors with short-term visas without employment, doing illegal work.
In May last year, the South Korean Ministry of Association said North Korea sends an estimated 50,000 workers on board to China and Russia. Most work in factories, on construction sites, in wood warehouses and in restaurants. They often work under harsh working conditions, and according to activists and defectors, much of their salary is claimed by the North Korean government.
After Kim could not receive relief from Trump in Vietnam, he called for national unity under the flag of self-employment to overcome the sanctions. His state media called the autonomy "the cherished sword," a term formerly used for its nuclear weapons.
"It is necessary to take the whirlwind of sanctions from the enemy forces," Kim said in a rare speech earlier this month in the country's parliament.
The Vietnam Summit collapsed after Trump rejected Kim's demands for the end of five of the eleven sanctions that he said would hamper his country's civilian economy in favor of nuclear disarmament. They include a ban on important exports such as coal, textiles and seafood. a significant restriction of oil imports; and the repatriation of North Korean foreign workers by December.
These sanctions, which were gradually approved since 2016, when Kim launched a series of nuclear and missile tests, are causing more pain than the six previously imposed sanctions that are largely infecting North Korea's weapons industry.
The new sanctions concern in particular the official foreign trade of North Korea. According to China's customs, China's imports from North Korea fell by 88% in 2018 and exports to the north by 33%. The South Korean central bank said that the North Korean economy decreased by 3.5% year-on-year in 2017. Groups in Seoul say that prices for rice and other key commodities in hundreds of markets in North Korea remain largely unchanged. Korean spy agency South Korea told lawmakers last month that it has found no sign of mass hunger.
Some experts say Kim has probably used some of his foreign exchange reserves to import goods from China to ensure price stability. Some claim that North Korea's huge trade deficit may have been offset by illegal trade with the border with China, which is likely to thrive on the loose enforcement of US sanctions. Others say that North Korea is trying to manufacture objects that it had imported.
"It is certain that North Korea will release a large amount of money," Goo said. "If its money is used up, it will be exposed to an urgent situation and further increase the demands for sanctions."
There is no independently confirmed data on the size of North Korea's foreign reserves. Go said some economists estimate it at $ 5 billion. External speculation varies how long North Korea can withstand the effects of sanctions without major economic and social chaos.
Cho speculates that North Korea is likely to exist for the next three to five years. Others say, however, that foreign exchange reserves could be charged earlier, at the earliest in December or next year.
Whether or not the sanctions will force Kim to completely abandon his nuclear program is unclear. Kim considers his nuclear weapons more secure than US non-aggression promises. In his April 12 parliamentary speech, he described the sanctions as a plan to disarm North Korea before trying to overthrow its government.
If there are signs of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, many experts say China will likely transport food to prevent the exodus of refugees from the North.
Thae Yong Ho, a former minister of the North Korean Embassy in London, who moved to South Korea in 2016, said in a recent blog post that there are rumors in the north Korean residents that Chinese President Xi Jinping in May, the North Korean capital Pyongyang will visit. He said that North Korea's tough stance would continue for the time being if Russia and China received aid.
Yu Bing from Beijing, Associated Press, contributed to this report.