Making a public U.S. appearance for the first time, high-level North Korean defector Ri Jong Ho says the North Korean economy may not survive a year under the tough sanctions of the U.N. Ri Jong-ho, who ran an international network of North Korean businesses which funnelled money into the hermit kingdom, said that, despite all the threats of nuclear war, North Korea “desperately wants relations with the U.S.”
Ri likened Kim’s war of words with President Donald Trump to a “child and adult dispute.”
According to Ri, the dictator thinks help from the U.S. will enable him to solidify his leadership, just as North Koreans strongly believe alliance with the U.S. helped South Korea prosper.
Ri believes North Korea’s increasing provocations and Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric are nothing more than an attempt to bring the U.S. into a diplomatic dialogue which does not involve South Korea.
“They just wanted two-way talks. What the North Korean leadership wants is to know how to warm relations with the U.S.,” Ri stated.
He also added that China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, is “very upset” and quickly losing patience with the north “begging” for money rather than trying to develop its own economy. The belief held by Ri is that tensions around the Korean Peninsula will not be resolved until those involved gain a better understanding of how the mind of Kim Jong-un operates and then work on changing his mind as it relates to certain issues.
The former insider’s viewpoint of dictator Kim Jong un’s oppressive regime comes just as North Korea’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador ramped up the tough talk.
“Nuclear war may break out any moment,” Kim In Ryong said Monday.
But North Korea may just be bluffing, as the former economic official said, making reference again to the toll the U.N. sanctions are having on the country.
“I don’t know if North Korea will survive a year of sanctions. Many people will die. There is not enough to eat there, and the sanctions have completely blocked trade,” said Ri Jong Ho, speaking through a translator at the Asia Society in New York.
With trade being blocked, the government is forced to send tens of thousands of laborers overseas. On a daily basis, North Korean households have no electricity, he added, while the capital city gets, at best, three to four hours of power a day.
Ri, who now lives in Washington D.C., was last posted in Dalian, China, where he helped operate a secret organization known as “Office 39.” The group was responsible for obtaining cash for the ruling Kim family. During his time there, Ri also won the Highest Civilian honor in the dictatorship. However, after a series of purges, he defected to the United States with his family in late 2014.
The defector spoke of his birth country as one in dire straits, and one that chooses to fire missiles in order to address its insecurities. Invariably, this leads to worldwide concern about the state’s growing nuclear threat which also leads to China and Russia repeatedly calling for dialogue. Ri, however, said he sees the solution as more than simply gathering together for talks.
When negotiating, Ri believes, it is crucial that the parties know what they want, which is far from the case here due to lack of understanding on both sides. He reiterated that in order to successfully turn the situation around, foreign diplomats need to understand what is in Kim Jong-un’s head and “change what he thinks.”
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]