March 3 (UPI) -- North Korea could be resuming low volumes of trade with the outside world as early as April, and Kim Jong Un's Five-Year Plan for the economy could be driving the change.
South Korea's state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy said Wednesday in a new report on China-North Korea trade the regime could partly reopen borders to import essential goods between April and June. North Korea recently installed a "disinfection facility" at the border city of Sinuiju.
North Korea traded intermittently in 2020 before shuttering its border with China in December, News 1 reported. According to KIEP, a prolonged border shutdown could have an adverse impact on the economy.
"After North Korea's General Secretary Kim Jong Un put 'people first' during the Eighth Party Congress, it is expected imports of consumer goods including food, medicine and detergents could take place," the report said.
The South Korean report also suggested the resumption of low-volume trade could create conditions for the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue. The administration of President Moon Jae-in has supported economic cooperation and humanitarian assistance.
North Korea has emphasized "self-reliance" in economic development that includes plans for expanding every industry, but according to KIEP, a shortage of materials needed for production will inevitably lead to difficulties. The regime will face no choice but to resume cooperation with foreign partners, KIEP said.
Kim Jong Un has blamed international sanctions for economic hardships, but the United States is showing little interest in lifting embargoes designed to pressure Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons.
Anthony Ruggiero, a former National Security Council Director for North Korea during the Trump administration, said sanctions "need to be at a level where it can provide leverage for negotiations," CNN reported Tuesday.
North Korea recently built new structure at a site in Yongdoktong, where nuclear weapons could be stored, according to CNN, citing recent satellite imagery from Maxar and analysis from the Middlebury Institute.