S. Korea considers lifting some sanctions
SOUTH Korea is considering lifting some of its unilateral sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to create more momentum for diplomacy aimed at improving relations and defusing the nuclear crisis, South Korean foreign minister said yesterday.
During a parliamentary audit of her ministry, Kang Kyung-wha said the government is reviewing whether to lift sanctions South Korea imposed on the DPRK in 2010 following a deadly attack on a warship that killed 45 South Korean sailors.
South Korea then effectively shut down all cross-border economic cooperation except for a jointly run factory park in the DPRK border town of Kaesong, which was shuttered in February 2016 after a DPRK nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The so-called “May 24 measures” of 2010 also banned the DPRK from using shipping lanes in South Korean territory.
A move by South Korea to lift its unilateral sanctions would have little immediate effect since the US-led international sanctions remain in place. But it’s clear South Korea’s liberal government is preparing to restart joint economic projects if the larger nuclear negotiations between the United States and the DPRK begin yielding results.
“Many parts of the May 24 measures now duplicate with the United Nations sanctions” against the DPRK, Kang said. “As negotiations continue to improve ties between the South and North and achieve denuclearization, there’s a need to flexibly review (lifting the measures) as long as it doesn’t damage the larger framework of sanctions against the North.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has described inter-Korean engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff. A large number of South Korean business leaders accompanied Moon last month to Pyongyang, where he and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un agreed to normalize operations at the Kaesong factory park and resume joint tours to the DPRK when possible, voicing optimism 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. The DPRK also said it would dismantle its main nuclear facility in Nyongbyon if the US takes unspecified corresponding measures.
As part of the agreements reached during Moon and Kim’s meetings, a liaison office between the countries opened in Kaesong last month. Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Tuesday that water being supplied to the office is being provided to the town’s residents as well.
Using a facility that draws from a reservoir near the factory park, South Korea has been pumping 1,000 to 2,000 tons of water to the liaison office and about 15,000 tons to the rest of the city every day, ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said. He said the resumption of the water supply does not violate sanctions.