Ministries remain apart over working group with US

30-Sep-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Seoul is facing internal conflict over adjusting the Korea-US consultation framework on coordinating North Korea policies.

The Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have begun discussions to reorganise the Korea-US working group, according to Rep. Jeon Hae-cheol of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), a member of the National Assembly Committee on Foreign Affairs and Unification, Tuesday.

The Korea-US working group was founded in 2018 for more effective bilateral discussions on primary issues related to security on the Korean Peninsula. But it has faced some criticism from supporters of the Moon Jae-in administration’s pro-engagement policy on North Korea that it has prevented inter-Korean cooperation from moving forward.

According to a statement from Jeon’s office, the two ministries have been conducting preliminary talks on revamping the working group, starting with a meeting September 16 between Choi Young-joon, head of the Ministry of Unification’s Policy Office, and Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula and Security Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Unification, which has been eager to restart inter-Korean projects under new minister Lee In-young, is reportedly looking for ways for South Korea to take more of the initiative in implementing inter-Korean projects that are not bound by international sanctions against North Korea.

“We would like to reorganise the Korea-US Working Group in a way that contributes to the development of inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the Ministry of Unification said in a statement.

But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is taking a different stance on the issue as it believes that coordination with the US is the key to dealing with North Korea.

“Both sides agreed that the Korea-US working group is playing a faithful role as the centre of South Korea-US cooperation on North Korea,” the foreign ministry said.

After taking office, Unification minister Lee has been trying to convince the US of the need to readjust the bilateral working group to facilitate President Moon’s push for visible progress in inter-Korean projects this year, despite the US focus on sanctions and the deadlock in US-North Korea denuclearisation talks.

“The South Korea-US working group was very efficient in terms of sanctions-related consultations, and but there is criticism that it has restricted inter-Korean relations,” Lee said during a meeting with US Ambassador Harry Harris, August 18. “The South Korea-US working group should play a clear role in promoting the development of inter-Korean relations and peace policies on the Korean Peninsula by readjusting and reorganising its operations and functions.”


Category: Korea

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