Tuesday 11 December 2018

Olympic truce ends as North Korea hit with new sanctions

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Ivanka Trump during their dinner at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Reuters
South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Ivanka Trump during their dinner at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Reuters

Ben Riley-Smith in Washington

The US announced the "largest ever" sanctions against North Korea as the Winter Olympics truce appeared to come to an abrupt halt.

More than 50 ships and maritime transport companies were targeted in an attempt to cut off sources of funding for the regime's nuclear programme.

Kim Yo-jong has been compared to Ivanka Trump.
Kim Yo-jong has been compared to Ivanka Trump.

The move is an escalation of the "extreme" diplomatic and economic pressure that the US has been putting on North Korea under President Donald Trump.

The two countries toned down their rhetoric and scaled back military drills during the early weeks of the Winter Olympics, hosted in South Korea.

However, the detente appeared to be over yesterday as Mr Trump announced "the largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime".

"The treasury department will soon be taking new action to further cut off sources of revenue and fuel that the regime uses to fund its nuclear programme and sustain its military by targeting 56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses that are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions," he said.

The shipping companies are mainly based in North Korea, but two are on the Chinese mainland, two in Taiwan, one in Panama and one in Singapore.

It comes amid growing signs that UN sanctions pushed through by the US are having an impact. Paper for North Korea's main publication, the 'Rodong Sinmun' - a mouthpiece for the regime - is running short. Food and fuel are increasingly scarce, while there are reports that hard currency reserves could dry up by October.

The Trump administration is determined that the regime does not develop a nuclear weapon that could hit US mainland cities - something it fears could be just months away.

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, arrived in Seoul yesterday to lead the US delegation at the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

She called it a "great honour", adding: "We are very, very excited to attend the... games to cheer for Team USA and to reaffirm our strong and enduring commitment with the people of the Republic of Korea."

Ms Trump was due to attend a dinner with South Korean president Moon Jae-in in Seoul yesterday evening.

She was then expected to head to Pyeongchang to be at the closing ceremony tomorrow.

Ms Trump's arrival marked the latest in a string of high profile appearances at the Winter Games.

The sporting events have been increasingly eclipsed by powerful political delegations and diplomatic manoeuvres behind the scenes.

Comparisons have been drawn between Ms Trump and Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who appeared to mesmerise the global media with her presence at the opening ceremony earlier this month, despite her not speaking a word in public.

To mark the end of the games tomorrow, North Korea is reportedly planning to send an equally senior delegation.

It is reportedly being led by General Kim Yong-chol, who heads Pyongyang's department for inter-Korea relations and formerly ran its spying agency.

However, White House officials have reportedly ruled out a formal meeting between Ms Trump and North Korean officials.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)


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