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

Millennium Post - - Mp World -

SEOUL: China and Rus­sia have backed eas­ing sanc­tions on Py­ongyang "at an ap­pro­pri­ate time", as South Korea's for­eign min­is­ter said Seoul was mulling lift­ing its own mea­sures, threat­en­ing cracks in global re­stric­tions on the nu­clear-armed North.

Py­ongyang is sanc­tioned un­der mul­ti­ple UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions over its weapons pro­grammes and has re­peat­edly called for the mea­sures to be loos­ened, cit­ing a freeze in its nu­clear and mis­sile tests.

At three-way talks in Moscow, vice for­eign min­is­ters from North Korea, China and Rus­sia agreed "it is nec­es­sary to con­sider ad­just­ing sanc­tions on the DPRK by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil at an ap­pro­pri­ate time", Bei­jing's for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment late Wed­nes­day, us­ing the North's of­fi­cial name.

China is the North's main diplo­matic backer and Py­ongyang also has friendly re­la­tions with Rus­sia.

In con­trast the United States, which spear­headed global ef­forts to squeeze the North Korean econ­omy last year, has been adamant that the sanc­tions re­main in place un­til Py­ongyang's "fi­nal, fully ver­i­fied de­nu­cle­ariza­tion".

US ally Seoul has also mooted re­lax­ing its own uni­lat­eral mea­sures against Py­ongyang.

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.

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. Py­ongyang has de­nied in­volve­ment.

"We are re­view­ing it with re­lated gov­ern­ment agen­cies," South Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha told par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day.

Kang later back­tracked, say­ing she had mis­spo­ken, and her min­istry said no ac­tive re­view was in place.

South Korea's uni­fi­ca­tion min­is­ter Cho My­oung-gyon added Thurs­day that there has been "no de­tailed re­view" on lift­ing sanc­tions but said Seoul has taken mea­sures for cross­bor­der co­op­er­a­tion "in a flex­i­ble man­ner".

In re­sponse to Kang's re­marks, Trump said: "They won't do it with­out our ap­proval. They do noth­ing with­out our ap­proval." Pres­i­dent Moon has vowed to hon­our the UN sanc­tions, but Seoul opened a joint li­ai­son of­fice in the North Korean bor­der city of Kaesong last month and has promised to pur­sue roads and rail projects be­tween the two coun­tries.

South Korean me­dia urged cau­tion Thurs­day, say­ing re­lax­ing sanc­tions now could jeop­ar­dise any chances for the North's de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion.

The Korea Joon­gang Daily said in an ed­i­to­rial it was "dumb­founded" by Kang's com­ments.

The con­ser­va­tive Cho­sun Ilbo news­pa­per added: "What brought the North to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble for de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion was the un­prece­dented tough sanc­tions.

"By lift­ing sanc­tions now, is the South Korean gov­ern­ment say­ing it will dis­man­tle North Korea's nu­clear weapons or help it keep them?" it said.

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