North Korea will unify its time zone with South Korea’s starting from May 5 in a bid to promote the two countries’ reconciliation, Pyongyang’s state media said Monday.
During a historic summit with President Moon Jae-in on April 27, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that his country will move its clock 30 minutes forward, back to the same time as in the South, reports Yonhap News Agency.
North Korea decided to push back its standard time by 30 minutes in August 2015, claiming the move was aimed at removing the vestige of Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The two Koreas previously used an identical standard time, set in the period.
The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s parliament, has decided to adopt a decree on synchronizing the country with Seoul’s time zone starting this Saturday, according to Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Kim said the move to unify the time zone is “the first practical step for national reconciliation and unity”, according to KCNA.
“Noting that it was a painful wrench to see two clocks indicating Pyongyang and Seoul times hanging on a wall of the summit venue, he proposed unifying the times of the north and the south before doing anything else,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Moon’s chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told reporters about Kim’s surprise proposal on Sunday.
Re-setting the standard time was a verbal promise by Kim, not an issue that was agreed upon at last week’s summit.
But the North’s swift announcement apparently reflects its resolve to improve ties with Seoul and implement a set of inter-Korean summit agreements, reports Yonhap News Agency.
“The move seems to indicate Chairman Kim’s active willingness for improving inter-Korean relations and seeking harmony with the international community. It also shows the country’s resolve to implement inter-Korean agreements at a fast pace,” Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at Seoul’s Unification Minister, told a press briefing on Monday.
Moon and Kim held the summit at the border village of Panmunjom and agreed to seek “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and push for declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War this year.
On Sunday, North Korea offered to close down its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri also in May. IANS
With negotiations at an impasse, Washington has imposed additional sanctions on those assisting Pyongyang — the first such action since February’s failed summit in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“This is not really about intensification of pressure,” a senior U.S. administration official said. “This is about maintaining pressure as defined by the international community.”
Thursday’s sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department on two China-based shipping companies were the latest evidence of some “leakage” in the enforcement of sanctions by Beijing, but U.S. officials said that overall, China was abiding by the U.N. resolutions slapped on North Korea for its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.
Washington wants Pyongyang to surrender its entire nuclear arsenal and other mass-destruction weapons before being granted any relief from sanctions. The North Koreans insist on sanctions relief before halting production of fissile materials.
“Insisting on unilateral North Korean disarmament upfront is pushing on the wrong door. We should be pushing to first slow the program, then cap it, and ultimately keep rollback and disarmament the long-term goal,” said Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “But every month that passes without a grand deal is one in which North Korea’s nuclear program continues to grow larger — increasing the risk of its own use and proliferation to other countries — and the chances of a deal grow smaller.”
Analysts also worry Kim could grow impatient, turn away from diplomacy with Trump and look to China to provide sanctions relief that North Korea desperately needs.
“I’m not sure we can be confident that Beijing will uphold enforcement after Trump so abruptly walked away from negotiations with North Korea,” said Jean Lee, who directs the center for Korean history and public policy at the Wilson Center, a global policy research group in Washington. “I do hope North Korea sticks to negotiation and does not resort to provocation. If Pyongyang doesn’t get the response it craves and needs from Washington, North Korea may turn back to a tried and tested strategy: to get Trump, and the world’s attention, with another illicit missile launch or test.”
U.S. officials on Thursday, speaking to reporters on condition of not being named, expressed patience and confidence with their stance toward North Korea.
“What they’re facing now is unprecedented,” said one U.S. official of the sanctions on North Korea. “We’ll give it some time.”
Lee, currently in Seoul, told VOA she found it “interesting that we’re back to a form of strategic patience. There was high hope, especially here in Seoul, that Trump’s impatience and unpredictability would lead to fast movement on North Korea. But the Trump administration is finding that it’s much tougher than the president may have thought of simply bullying Kim into acquiescence.”
A prolonged lull in talks “could become risky, and maintaining maximalist positions will not be sustainable,” said Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a national security research group in Washington.
“They need to negotiate a denuclearization-peace road map soon and preferably an interim agreement on fissile materials. Rapid and complete denuclearization is not realistic. Denuclearization will have to occur in stages but in accordance with an agreed road map on how this all ends,” Kim told VOA.
The current primary point of pressure on Pyongyang by the international community is on entities, including their ships, involved with illicitly exporting North Korean goods, such as coal, and taking products — especially petroleum — into the impoverished country in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Unless North Korea denuclearizes, “we’re going to maintain that pressure,” a senior U.S official said.
A coalition of countries — using their vessels, aircraft and classified intelligence means — are daily watching the movement of ships involved in the illegal trade.
North Korea and those helping it are trying to obscure identities of ships and cargo by disabling or manipulating systems that identify the vessels for safety and navigation, physically altering vessel identifications and making ship-to-ship transfers to avoid ports, according to a sanctions advisory jointly issued Thursday by the U.S. Treasury and State departments and the Coast Guard.
Neither the United States nor any other country has moved to interdict the offending ships.
“I don’t want to talk about potential steps we may or may not take,” replied a senior administration official when asked by VOA whether there was discussion here about using the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard in international waters to take such action.