I visited North Korea with an official delegation and here's what I saw and learned.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to visit North Korea as part of a delegation of scholars led by veteran Indonesian diplomat Dino Djalal. I spent four days in the country talking to high-level officials and professors and visiting the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) at the country's southern border and various institutions, including Km Il-sung University. Touring North Korea, albeit under careful supervision and only for a few days, was quite revealing.
While in the West, pundits and officials have speculated about how much new sanctions have affected the country, in Pyongyang, it was clear to me that they are yet to threaten the foundations of the regime or pressure the North Korean leadership to alter their national security doctrine.
But it was also apparent that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has embarked on an ambitious project to modernise the country and in order to achieve that, he would need access to global capital and markets, which the long list of UN and US sanctions is currently blocking.
It is this vision of a reinvigorated nation - not only militarily, but also economically - that has prompted him to return to the negotiating table.