North Korea diplomatic options being ignored - expert

kim jong un pr

15 September 2017

  • Lack of US ambassador and failure to explore new negotiations is creating a dangerous deadlock
  • North Korea is stronger economically than it is often given credit for, meaning the regime is unlikely to cave in
  • North Korea expert Virginie Grzelczyk of Aston University is available for interview

As tensions reach a new high following the latest North Korean ballistic missile launch over Japan, one of the UK’s leading experts on the secretive East Asian country has said a diplomatic solution to the crisis must explore new options.

Virginie Grzelczyk, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University in Birmingham, pointed to the fact that the United States under President Trump has still not appointed a new ambassador to South Korea as a major stumbling block to progress.

She also said offers from third countries including Mongolia to act as brokers for new negotiations had so far been spurned – leaving the UN as the only forum for increasingly hostile dialogue.

Dr Grzelczyk, who has visited North Korea, believes North Korea will continue its nuclear weapons programme at any cost to shore up the regime of Kim Jong-Un. Fresh sanctions imposed by the UN this week are therefore likely to be ineffective in halting its nuclear drive, she adds.

She said: “Our caricature of North Korea is of a tin-pot dictatorship totally dependent on China economically. But in recent years, North Korea has looked to illicit trade and international relations as a way around sanctions.

“As well as widespread smuggling activities, it has fostered relations with African and Asian states through construction and monument-building projects and sent thousands of sponsored workers to Gulf states like Qatar who send back remittances in much-needed foreign currency. This has created some surprising paradoxes – for instance, many tourists to Cambodia will be unaware that every ticket they buy for the new Ankhor Wat Museum near the famous ruined city results in $10 being sent back to North Korea.

“So the regime is a lot stronger economically than it is often given credit for. And it has already shown that it will prioritise its nuclear weapons programme above all else to equip itself with what it sees as a necessary deterrent against potential aggressors.

“A diplomatic solution to the crisis needs to take these factors into account. At the moment, the international community is failing to explore the options available, railroading us towards a potentially disastrous nuclear war.

“At the very least, we need the United States to show leadership by appointing a new ambassador to South Korea without delay, as well as opening new face-to-face negotiations, in a third country if necessary, to de-escalate what is becoming a deeply troubling situation for the entire world.”

  • Virginie Grzelczyk is the author of North Korea’s New Diplomacy: Challenging Political Isolation in the 21st Century, published by Palgrave (2017)


Notes to editors

To arrange an interview opportunity with Virginie Grzelczyk, please call James Tout on 07989 610276 or email [email protected]