Kim Jong-un under pressure to grow North Korean economy in 2018 as nuclear sanctions bite

Their warnings have come as analysts eagerly wait to see what message Kim Jong-un will deliver in his New Year’s speech.

Speaking of Kim Jong-un, senior analyst at the US-based CNA Corp Ken Gause said: “He can claim victory in 2017 because of the progress on the nuclear deterrent.

“He will have to begin to show progress on the economy in order to nail down his bona fides as a strong leader.

“Unlike his father and grandfather, Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy is tied closely to policy success.”

The news comes after the UN Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions on North Korea after its sixth nuclear test on September 3.

The sanctions adopted by the UNSC following that test are aimed at slashing North Korea’s oil imports by 30 per cent and ban exports of North Korean textiles.

Another UNSC sanctions resolution, seek to cut refined petroleum product exports to North Korea by 89 per cent, was also passed in response to a North Korean missile test on November 29.

China, the main source of North Korea’s fuel, has also dealt a blow to the North Korean economy as it did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its isolated neighbour last month.

November was the second straight month China exported no diesel or gasoline to North Korea. The last time China’s jet fuel shipments to Pyongyang were at zero was in February 2015.

Cai Jian, an expert on North Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai, said: “This is a natural outcome of the tightening of the various sanctions against North Korea.”

The tightening “reflects China’s stance”, he said.

However, Donald Trump yesterday hit out at China by saying were “caught red-handed” selling oil to North Korea in breach of sanctions.

The prospects for the North Korean economy next year are bleak, according to experts.

Lim Soo-ho, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, said: “North Korea’s exports are expected to fall sharply from next year due to the impact of sanctions.

“A sharp decline in foreign currency income will likely lead to a fall in imports, dealing a heavy blow to the North Korean economy.”

Such predictions will prompt speculation as to whether an even more severely dented North Korean economy will prompt Kim Jong-un to revise his stance on nuclearisation.

Experts have claimed that the hermit kingdoms ruler may seek to launch a peace offensive toward the US as sanctions will likely begin to hit the regime hard in the new year.