North Korea could collapse within a year due to US sanctions, a defector and former Pyongyang official has said.
Ri Jong-ho, who ran an international network of North Korean businesses which funnelled money into the hermit kingdom, said the country “desperately wants relations with the US”.
“The sanctions that the White House has imposed on North Korea are of a historic level,” Mr Ri told an Asia Society event in New York.
“Never before has the country faced such tough sanctions. I don’t know if North Korea will survive a year with these sanctions. People will die,” he said.
Mr Ri believes North Korea’s increasing provocations and Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric are an attempt to force the US into a diplomatic dialogue which does not involve South Korea.
He added: “Right now the leadership of North Korea have deployed missiles aimed at the US and are doing these provocations, but they desperately want relations with the US.”
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The former official also said North Korea and China were currently at “the very worst point of their relationship” following Mr Kim’s purge of officials close to Beijing and Chinese President Xi’s decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang on his first trip to the Korean peninsula in 2014.
Mr Kim branded Mr Xi a “son of a bitch” during a subsequent meeting of high ranking officials, according to Mr Ri.
Mr Ri served as chief of the Korea Daehung Trading Corporation, which is managed by a clandestine organisation under direct control of the Kim family, according to the South China Morning Post.
He told The Washington Post he was in charge of North Korean tactics to circumvent UN sanctions, before defecting with his family in 2014.