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North Korea on Edge as Current Sanctions Tighten

North Korea: Last week, North Korea made a decision to withdraw its staff from the Liaison Joint Office after the sanctions that are currently placed on North Korea were tightened. Some Chinese companies found loopholes in the current sanctions and began swapping cargo from ship to ship in the ocean, trying to avoid the sanctions that are in place. Once the avoidance was discovered, the US and South Korea tightened the sanctions. With this, North Korea decided to pull their staff out of the Joint Office that has been running smoothly for over a year– running five days a week with staff from North and South Korea both living on the premises and working together. After the withdrawal, the US made a statement that it was not going to implement any new sanctions on North Korea. This message to North Korea showed them that the US was still willing to work with them, and wanted to keep communication open. North Korea also made comments in their news outlets stating that they were upset with South Korea–feeling that South Korea was siding with other entities like the United States over trying to work on the relationship of the Korean peninsula. For now, some workers from North Korea have shown up at the Joint Office after the initial pullout, so the message that no new sanctions would be put on the North must have gone over well with the North Korean leader. The employees that showed up to work were low-level workers and only part of the staff that was there originally. South Korea began to send more senior leadership to the office to try to work through the lack of leadership currently at the office.

Analyst Notes

This pullout by the North shows that their leader is trying to focus on the unionizing of the Korean Peninsula. But if he feels that the US and South Korea are beginning to get too close in an attempt to control North Korea through more sanctions, he will pull all of his staff and cancel the ongoing talks that are currently happening.