Trump bangs table as Seoul differs over North Korea sanctions

Pauline Gross
October 11, 2018

South Korea on Thursday walked back on a proposal to lift some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea following U.S. President Donald Trump's blunt retort that Seoul could "do nothing" without Washington's approval.

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.

Asked about Seoul considering lifting some sanctions to create space for diplomacy with North Korea, Trump says: "They won't do that without our approval".

South Korea is supplying water in the North Korean border town of Kaesong using a facility in a now-shuttered factory park that had been jointly operated by the rivals.

Seoul's potential removal of unilateral sanctions would be a largely symbolic move as it's virtually impossible for South Korea to resume joint economic projects with North Korea under US-led global sanctions, which have been strengthened considerably since 2016 as the North accelerated its nuclear and missile tests.

A session of the United Nations Security Council in September, too, revealed the growing divisions between members, with China and Russian Federation calling for sanctions to be weakened and the U.S., Japan, and numerous European countries insisting that pressure should be maintained.

The South's dovish President Moon Jae-in favours engagement with the North and has dangled large investment and joint cross-border projects as incentives for steps towards denuclearisation.

In a rare confirmation of discord between Seoul and Washington, South Korea's Kang also said on Wednesday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had expressed "discontent" with an inter-Korean military pact reached during a summit last month.

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Kang did not specify what Pompeo was unhappy about.

Kang argued that the measures needed to be reviewed because negotiations between the two countries were improving and numerous sanctions from the measures were identical with existing United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

Trump and Kim held a historic first summit in Singapore on June 12 at which Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese embassy in North Korea sent floral baskets to the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea on Wednesday to congratulate the latter on its 73rd anniversary, according to North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. Still, the lifting of the 2010 sanctions could offer at least some tangible benefits to the North.

South Korea still hopes to press ahead with improving ties with its neighbour, Oba said, and Moon "will continue to test the envelope but avoid any actions he thinks will cause open tensions with the United States".

On Wednesday, Beijing's Foreign Ministry released a statement reading: "It is time to start considering the adjustment of the UN Security Council's sanctions regime against [North Korea]".

"For North Korea, the most meaningful result from the lifting of the May 24 measures would be that its ships will be able to travel through Jeju Strait again", said Koh, referring to waters between South Korea's mainland and the southern island of Jeju.

One wonders how Korean leaders are supposed to negotiate, given that it was Trump who canceled Pompeo's scheduled North Korean visit in August, pointing to a lack of progress. "This has nothing to do with restarting the Kaesong factory park".

Other reports by GizPress

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