North Korea wants a raft of international sanctions eased - including on imports of luxury items such as high-class liquors and suits - before it will restart denuclearization talks with the United States.
That's according to a South Korean lawmakers after being briefed by the head of South Korea's intelligence agency.
The remarks came as the NIS said North Korea was distributing emergency military reserves of rice amid a severe food shortage and economic crisis caused by a drought and made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
Let's take an in-depth look. I have here with me Go Myong-hyun, senior research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Last week the two Koreas restored hotlines that North Korea suspended a year ago, the first hint in months that Pyeongyang might be more responsive to engagement efforts.
But, just days after, North Korea fired a threat saying that there will not be any improvement in ties should South Korea and the U.S. go ahead with their annual joint military exercises slated for this month.
How likely is it that Seoul and Washington will either scale back or even cancel the drills? The drills have already been scaled back due to the pandemic.
As a precondition to reopen talks, North Korea argues that the United States should allow mineral exports and imports of refined oil and necessities.
Not only that Seoul's NIS chief is cited as saying that when he asked Pyeongyang which necessities they want the most, and they said high-class liquors and suits were included, not just for Kim Jong-un's own consumption but to distribute to Pyeongyang's elite. One, how convincing is this argument for South Korea and two, more importantly, how likely is it that Washington would agree to this?
Washington, meanwhile, has given no indication of a willingness to ease sanctions ahead of any talks; but continues to reiterate its position that the U.S. was willing to meet North Korea "anytime, anywhere and without preconditions," but that there had been no response from the North.
So, are there no direct talks between Pyeongyang and Washington at this point? Has Kim Jong-un decided that it would only convey its message through Seoul and why?
We also learned that North Korea is releasing emergency military rice reserves as its food shortage worsens with a heat wave and drought reducing the regime's supply. How serious is the food situation in North Korea? Is this an area where South Korea and the international community can provide aid as humanitarian assistance?
How do you expect inter-Korean relations to develop here forward? Can we anticipate a virtual meeting of the Korean War-separated families for Chuseok this year?
How likely is a virtual inter-Korean summit or the North Korean leader's virtual attendance at the UN General Assembly next month?
Go Myong-hyun, senior research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and our senior North Korea analyst. Thank you.