Monday, 22 October, 2018

China, Russia push to ease N. Korea sanctions as Seoul mulls options

President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June
Ellis Copeland | 11 October, 2018, 21:35

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday South Korea will not lift sanctions on Pyongyang without US approval, after the South Korean foreign minister softened earlier comments that some of its unilateral sanctions were under review.

Deputy foreign ministers of China, North Korea, and Russian Federation on Wednesday issued a joint communiqué reiterating the strong ties between the three nations and calling for a loosening of sanctions against the DPRK.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a parliamentary audit on Thursday there has been no serious consideration given to lifting the sanctions and that doing so would be hard unless North Korea acknowledges responsibility for the 2010 attack.

South Korea imposed unilateral sanctions on the North in 2010 following an attack on a warship that killed 46 South Korean sailors, banning most bilateral trade and exchanges.

It's virtually impossible for South Korea to reopen Kaesong's factory park and embark on other joint economic projects under USA -led sanctions imposed against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

The Trump administration maintains it's made good progress on getting North Korea to denuclearize despite no verifiable actions towards this taking place.

Members of Liberty Korea Party's committee on national security said any suggestion to repeal the National Security Act would make way for a North Korea infiltration, local news service Newsis reported Wednesday.

Kang also said Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed displeasure over the military agreement between the Koreas.

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"Kang is biting the bullet, and indicating to North Korea that South Korea is trying its best to ease sanctions", said Go Myong-hyun, a North Korea researcher at the Asan Institute in Seoul. The source added Pompeo "used strong language" in the phone call with Kang.

The denuclearization process, which looked so promising when Kim and Trump met in Singapore in June, is now looking stillborn. Kang's ministry later tried to downplay her comments, saying in a statement that no decision was imminent. "As there are many (bilateral) sanctions overlapping the United Nations ones, it won't necessarily mean the substantive lifting (of sanctions on the North)".

South Koreans are deeply divided along ideological lines and many people still harbor deep anger over North Korea's 1950 attack that started the Korean War.

The May 24 measures include the South blocking North Korea's access to the Jeju Straight.

Seoul then effectively shut down all cross-border economic cooperation except for a joint factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where business activities and investment were also scaled back.

She suggested that United States demands for a full disclosure of North Korean nuclear assets - which Pyongyang has balked at providing - is a poor path to follow, citing how the last time a similar process took place, it disintegrated in 2008 over the issue of related verification protocols.

During Moon's visit to North Korea last month, he and Kim agreed to normalize operations at the Kaesong factory park and resume joint tours to North Korea when possible, voicing optimism that global sanctions could end and allow such projects.

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