(Bloomberg) — North Korea is poking holes through a global web of sanctions and generating enough cash to keep its nuclear weapons program moving along as a year-end deadline Kim Jong Un set to reach a deal with the U.S. approaches — with little progress in sight.
Instead of “concrete, verifiable steps toward denuclearization” — a mantra of President Donald Trump’s policy toward Pyongyang — Kim has yet to make any concessions on his nation’s nuclear program. The ability of the North Korean leader to find ways around United Nations sanctions is making it difficult for America’s “maximum pressure” campaign to deliver on what the Trump administration has promised.
“The problem is there is wiggle room, and while the sanctions are effective at squeezing the economy over the long run, I don’t believe Chairman Kim Jong Un sees them as a challenge in the short term,” Hugh Griffiths, who led the UN’s panel of experts on North Korea until earlier this year, said in an interview.
Kim has repeatedly threatened to find a “new way” if negotiations with the U.S. fail to progress by year-end, and recent talks in Stockholm lasted less than half a day. That timeline may reflect the American political calendar as much as Kim’s own. Trump could be hard-pressed to secure progress on North Korea while facing a possible impeachment trial and running for re-election.
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