Seoul reaffirms focus on NK engagement

16-Jan-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Despite a rising controversy over the possible violation of global sanctions, key officials of the Moon Jae-in administration have reaffirmed the President’s pro-engagement policy with North Korea this year through the pursuit of various inter-Korean projects.

During her latest visit to the United States, Foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha indicated that Seoul could proceed with inter-Korean projects irrespective of the stalemate in the North Korea-US nuclear negotiations.

“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea-US relations can proceed faster at some point, and South-North relations can do so at another point,” Kang told reporters after her meeting with her US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday (local time).

“Amid the deadlock in North Korea-US talks, what the two Koreas can do is to keep up the momentum for engagement. There have been some important agreements between the two Koreas. In particular, there are projects that are not restricted by the sanctions. If the sanctions become an obstacle, then there are sure to be ones that we can pursue after getting exemptions.”

Her remarks come on the heels of President Moon repeatedly stressing that he will no longer stand by as the stalemate in North Korea-US talks continues to cause a setback in the inter-Korean relations, and hampers the implementation of agreements made with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summits. Moon has underlined his pro-engagement policy with Pyongyang as one of the core objectives of his administration this year on several occasions, including his January 7 New Year speech and Tuesday’s press conference.

Unification minister Kim Yeon-chul also reiterated Seoul will no longer allow inter-Korean relations to be sidelined.

“In the New Year, the government will undertake measure to improve inter-Korean relations rather than wait until North Korea-US relations are resolved,” Kim said during a meeting with leaders of religions and civic groups.

Additionally, the unification ministry said Wednesday that individual tours to North Korea do not violate United Nations Security Council sanctions. “We are actively considering individual tours, if individual security is guaranteed by North Korea. We need to discuss this with the North Korean side,” a unification ministry official said during a press briefing.

“Regarding inter-Korean projects, there are elements that require consultation with the US, but there are also areas for the two Koreas to pursue independently. As a member of the international community, we will continue to consult closely with the US within the boundaries of the sanctions.”

During the New Year press conference, Moon cited “individual tours” to North Korea as one area that could expedite inter-Korean exchanges without violating the sanctions.

But the Moon administration’s renewed focus on engagement has sparked concern over a rift with the US, which has been firm about keeping the sanctions in place. Although Kang said his U.S counterpart showed “understanding” toward Seoul’s position on the need to move forward with inter-Korean relations, there was no mention of this by the US State Department following their meeting.

“Secretary Pompeo and Foreign minister Kang reaffirmed continued close US-ROK coordination on North Korea,” the department said in a statement. US Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris also said earlier that any improvement or success in inter-Korean relations must take place in “lockstep” with the US

The US Department of the Treasury slapped fresh sanctions Tuesday on countries’ firms exploiting North Korean overseas workers; but Washington has continued to keep the door open for dialogue with Pyongyang.

“I still remain hopeful that North Korea will make the right decision,” Pompeo said during a speech in Silicon Valley, Monday, according to a transcript released by the state department.

He said the US does not have a hostile policy toward the North Korean regime, saying “America doesn’t pose a security risk to the North Koreans.”

“I still hold out hope that we can convince Chair Kim to move away from nuclear weapons as their great wall of protection, and convince them that there is a brighter, even more secure posture that they can have without those nuclear weapons.”


Category: Korea

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