ROK walks back on talk of lift­ing sanc­tions

Trump has said Seoul can­not do any­thing with­out ap­proval from US

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By PAN MENGQI pan­mengqi@chi­ Luo Huin­ing and Yon­hap News Agency con­trib­uted to this story.

Seoul is not con­sid­er­ing lift­ing its uni­lat­eral sanc­tions to­ward Py­ongyang as US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­torted that Seoul could “do noth­ing” with­out Wash­ing­ton’s ap­proval.

“No de­tailed re­view (on lift­ing the sanc­tions) has been made,” the Repub­lic of Korea’s Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­is­ter Cho My­oung-gyon told law­mak­ers dur­ing a Thurs­day gov­ern­ment au­dit.

“Still, in seek­ing in­ter-Korean ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion and amid im­prov­ing re­la­tions be­tween the two neigh­bors, we have been tak­ing mea­sures in a flex­i­ble man­ner,” Cho said.

Cho’s re­mark came a day af­ter ROK For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha said that the gov­ern­ment is re­view­ing whether to lift the sanc­tions called May 24 Mea­sure and im­posed on Py­ongyang in 2010.

The US re­mains firm that no sanc­tions re­lief will come un­til the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea com­pletely gives up its nu­clear weapons pro­gram, As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

Trump has re­sponded that Seoul can­not lift sanc­tions with­out Wash­ing­ton’s say-so.

“They won’t do that with­out our ap­proval. They do noth­ing with­out our ap­proval”.

Trump has also en­cour­aged US al­lies to main­tain sanc­tions on the DPRK un­til it de­nu­cle­arizes as part of what his ad­min­is­tra­tion has termed a cam­paign of “max­i­mum pres­sure” against Py­ongyang.

At a Thurs­day par­lia­men­tary ses­sion in Seoul, Kang wa­tered down her state­ment, say­ing there are no fullfledged moves un­der way to re­move the May 24 Mea­sures.

Sun Xi­hui, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor with the na­tional in­sti­tute of in­ter­na­tional strat­egy at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said the ROK is the US’ im­por­tant ally in Asia, and also a cru­cial source of sup­port for Wash­ing­ton’s pol­icy to­ward Py­ongyang.

As Seoul has been at the fore­front of the ten­sions with Py­ongyang, it needs the US’ se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion and thus has to obey Wash­ing­ton’s strate­gic ar­range­ments.

Sun noted that the ROK has nat­u­ral ad­van­tages in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the DPRK, and has played an im­por­tant role in im­prov­ing US-DPRK re­la­tions.

Dur­ing ROK Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s visit to Py­ongyang last month, he and the DPRK top leader Kim Jongun agreed to nor­mal­ize op­er­a­tions at the Kaesong fac­tory park and re­sume joint tours to the DPRK when pos­si­ble, voic­ing op­ti­mism that the in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions could end and al­low such projects.

The neigh­bors also an­nounced mea­sures to re­duce con­ven­tional mil­i­tary threats, such as cre­at­ing buf­fer zones along their land and sea bound­aries and a no-fly zone above the bor­der. Kim also said it would dis­man­tle its main nu­clear fa­cil­ity if Wash­ing­ton takes un­spec­i­fied cor­re­spond­ing mea­sures.

The US, how­ever, has in­sisted ef­forts to im­prove re­la­tions be­tween Seoul and Py­ongyang should move in tan­dem with ef­forts to de­nu­cle­arize the penin­sula.

Zhang Lian­gui, a Korean stud­ies ex­pert at the Party School of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, said that the ROK hopes to use the lift­ing of sanc­tions to im­prove ties with the DPRK, yet the US thinks this may not be co­he­sive with its pol­icy. He noted that the US call for com­plete, ver­i­fi­able, ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ariza­tion is seen by the DPRK as an uni­lat­eral de­mand which runs counter to its prom­ise to build bet­ter US-DPRK re­la­tions and es­tab­lish a peace regime on the penin­sula, as agreed at the Kim-Trump sum­mit in June.

With re­gard to the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion is­sue, Cho ex­pressed op­ti­mism that there will be “progress” when the lead­ers of the US and DPRK meet again fol­low­ing their Sin­ga­pore sum­mit. The two ear­lier agreed to hold their sec­ond meet­ing “at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble date”.

“When it comes to the re­sults, there could be dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions so we are pre­par­ing for all pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios to keep in­ter-Korean re­la­tions, ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion go­ing,” Cho said.

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