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North Korea sanctions slow, but don’t stop nuclear development, analyst says

March 12 (UPI) — A former director at the International Atomic Energy Agency said international sanctions against North Korea worked to slow weapons development.

Sanctions had a definite impact on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, but it has not stopped the Kim Jong Un regime from continued development, former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen said, according to Voice of America’s Korean service on Friday.

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Heinonen also said economic embargoes had an indirect impact on the North’s weapons program. Sanctions blocked sources of North Korean foreign currency earnings and hit the regime’s exports. Those changes had an effect on state funding for the nuclear program, Heinonen said.

While sanctions are not entirely ineffective, Heinonen said it alone does not prevent nuclear proliferation.

In addition to sanctions, countries like the United States should provide incentives for North Korea to change direction and pursue a different path, Heinonen said.

North Korea decided to build a nuclear deterrent in the 1950s. The regime also wants to make advances in nuclear warhead miniaturization, Heinonen said.

Critics of sanctions have said the policy hurts ordinary North Koreans. But recent analysis indicates the novel coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent closure of North Korea’s borders also have played a role in food availability and prices.

Analyst Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein said on 38 North corn prices are soaring in North Korea at higher-than-average rates in 2021.

Silberstein said corn prices rose 150% from November to late February. The analyst also said corn is considered a cheaper alternative or inferior substitute to rice.

“When food becomes more scarce, people switch over a larger portion of their diets to corn, since it gives more food for the same amount of money,” the analyst said. “So a rise in corn prices may be a signal of growing scarcity overall.”

In February, Kim criticized subordinates for setting unrealistic production targets in agriculture.

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