Meanwhile, violations of the sanctions regime are regularly reported. Media reports suggest that China is turning a blind eye on North Korean exports via Dandong, as well as to offshore oil transfers to North Korean ships, photographed by the Japanese. Yet overall, even if humanitarian exemptions provided by the UN sanctions regime are added, tourism and sanctions evasion are not sufficient for a real development policy and only provide some breathing space to an otherwise suffocating international environment.
As a new year begins, China and South Korea are both defending simultaneous and reciprocal measures, each in their own way. In Beijing last week for his fourth meeting with Xi Jinping in 10 months - a greater frequency than Trump-Xi summits - Kim Jong Un obtained Xi Jinping's support for the "new strategic line", and a Chinese wish that the United States and North Korea "meet halfway". Similarly, at his New Year press conference, South Korean President Moon Jae-in claimed that, in order "to resolve the issue of sanctions on North Korea swiftly, Pyongyang needs to take substantive and drastic measures towards denuclearization. (...) If Pyongyang undertakes such actions, corresponding measures should be devised as well, in order to accelerate and encourage the North’s denuclearization." By adopting these stances, the two countries that would play a key role in the North Korean economy if sanctions were relaxed are undermining the prospect of a full declaration of its proliferation activities by North Korea.
This strengthens Kim Jong Un's hand as a second summit with Donald Trump is being prepared. Compared to his predecessors, Donald Trump innovated by agreeing to organize a summit with North Korea without any preconditions, which, from Pyongyang's point of view, is equivalent to a status recognition as a nuclear power. It is not unthinkable that the Trump administration would take a further step in the direction of "action for action", and reward incomplete disarmament measures. The question of a watered-down agreement would then have to be considered by the Europeans at the UN Security Council.