South Korea walks back on possibly lifting sanctions on North

Lamar Ellis
October 11, 2018

"'Approval' is a strong and insulting word meant to say that we are progressing too fast with the North without seeking consensus with the United States", said Kim Jae-kyung from a conservative opposition party.

The pair discussed ending the reclusive state's nuclear weapons program and hostilities between Washington and Pyongyang.

South Korea is considering lifting some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea to create more momentum for diplomacy aimed at improving relations and defusing the nuclear crisis, the South's foreign minister said Wednesday.

"There is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first", said Ri Yong-ho, North Korea's foreign minister, speaking at the United Nations.

South Korea suspended most trade with the North in 2010 following a North Korean torpedo attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors on board.

A few days after the inter-Korean summit, Gen. Robert Abrams, the next commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, told the Senate Committee on Armed Services that all activities in the DMZ are under the jurisdiction of the UN Command, which the USFK commander also heads.

However, if they were lifted, by allowing cross-border barter trade - in which goods, but no actual currency crosses borders - North-South trade could feasibly resume without violating global sanctions. The two Koreas have agreed to begin work on that by the end of this year, and the equipment and technology that would cross the border would nearly certainly require UN Security Council permissions.

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Asking Kang a question, Chung said the USA has pressed South Korea to raise its share to around 1.5 trillion won (US$1.3 billion) per year from the current 960 billion won.

But it seems unlikely that Kang flubbed it, one expert said.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha takes an oath during a parliamentary audit of her ministry's affairs at its headquarters in Seoul on October 10, 2018.

Kang's remarks generated smiles in other quarters. While U.N. sanctions against North Korea don't ban tourism, they do place strict restrictions on the transfer of funds, he said. On Wednesday, China released a document that called for a relaxation of sanctions against North Korea - a key part of the Trump administration's pressure on North Korea. "The National Security Act must remain in place".

While some in the United States administration have indicated that denuclearization could be completed within the lifespan of the Trump administration, some experts say it could take more than a decade - assuming it is faithfully implemented, which many doubt.

She suggested that USA 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. Pompeo recently visited Kim in Pyongyang in an effort to set up another summit between him and Trump following months of friction in lower-level talks that saw North Korea accuse Washington of "gangster-like" demands on denuclearization.

"Especially when he meets with Pope Francis, he will convey Chairman Kim's message that he will ardently welcome him if he visits Pyongyang", the news outlet added.

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