Pyongyang appears to have made a potentially far-reaching, and possibly internally contentious, decision to put the question of sanctions squarely on the table at exactly the point US-DPRK negotiations are rapidly losing momentum. At first glance, this seems an effort to force Washington to realize that its current approach of what the North considers the US “all-take-but-no-give” attitude is driving the situation into a dangerous tailspin.
On October 16, North Korea publicly heralded its decision when KCNA carried the “full text of an article made public by Kim Chol Myong” focusing on sanctions as the major obstacle to progress in US-DPRK negotiations. KCNA rarely carries the full text of articles or official statements, and when it does, this signifies they are to be read with special care. The article came the closest any DPRK commentary has since early this year to criticizing President Trump directly. The norm for the past many months had been to lay the blame for problems on “conservative” forces or “those who are called experts” in the US. Though stopping short of criticizing the president by name, the Kim Chol Myong article went right up to that line and leaned across it, complaining:
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