South Korea says Pom­peo com­plained about in­ter-Korean mil­i­tary pact

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

SEOUL: US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo has ex­pressed “dis­con­tent” with an in­ter-Korean mil­i­tary pact reached dur­ing last month’s sum­mit, South Korea’s for­eign min­is­ter said on Wed­nes­day, in a rare dis­clo­sure of signs of dis­agree­ment with its US ally.

The two Koreas agreed to halt mil­i­tary drills, set up a no-fly zone near the bor­der and grad­u­ally re­move land­mines and guard posts within the Demil­i­tarised Zone, among other steps.

The deal was sealed by South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dur­ing their third sum­mit in Py­ongyang on Septem­ber 18-20.

Dur­ing an an­nual parliamentary au­dit on Wed­nes­day, an op­po­si­tion party law­maker asked For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha if Pom­peo had com­plained about the agree­ment dur­ing a phone call re­ported ear­lier by Ja­pan’s Nikkei news­pa­per.

“Yes, that’s cor­rect,” Kang said in re­sponse. “I wouldn’t say he made strong ex­pres­sions. (It was) dis­con­tent, about how he was not briefed suf­fi­ciently, and he had a lot of ques­tions within my knowl­edge.”

Her re­marks amounted to a rare con­fir­ma­tion of dis­cord between Seoul and Wash­ing­ton, amid US con­cerns that in­ter-Korean re­la­tions may be warm­ing too fast rel­a­tive to ne­go­ti­a­tions to dis­man­tle North Korea’s nu­clear arms pro­gramme.

While main­tain­ing that it re­mains in lock­step with the United States, South Korea has forged ahead with ef­forts to en­gage with North Korea, even as crit­ics ac­cused Moon of naively fo­cus­ing on feel-good the­atrics at the ex­pense of real progress in per­suad­ing North Korea to give up its nu­clear weapons.

Kim vowed to work to­ward de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion dur­ing his un­prece­dented June sum­mit with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. But Py­ongyang’s ac­tions have since fallen short of US de­mands for ir­re­versible steps to scrap its ar­se­nal, in­clud­ing a full dis­clo­sure of nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties and ma­te­ri­als.

When asked by a South Korean rul­ing party law­maker whether Wash­ing­ton felt the South was push­ing ahead too rapidly with its rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pol­icy to­ward the North, Kang cited views re­gard­ing “ad­just­ing the pace” of in­terKorean moves.

“I don’t think the mil­i­tary agree­ment would bring sig­nif­i­cant changes in terms of readi­ness or op­er­a­tions, but they (US) could com­plain we made far more con­ces­sions than the North did, espe­cially ahead of the se­cond North Korea-US sum­mit,” a South Korean mil­i­tary source told Reuters, ask­ing for anonymity due to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter.

“The US could pre­fer a re­cip­ro­cal ap­proach where each side makes a con­ces­sion step by step, rather than a com­pre­hen­sive bar­gain as we did.”

Kang and Pom­peo spoke by phone on Septem­ber 17, a day be­fore the three-day in­ter-Korean sum­mit kicked off and shortly af­ter Seoul in­formed Wash­ing­ton of the mil­i­tary ac­cord, a diplo­matic source told Reuters.

The Py­ongyang sum­mit was in part de­signed to help re­vive nu­clear talks between the North and the United States, which were on shaky ground af­ter Trump can­celled Pom­peo’s visit to the North in late Au­gust, cit­ing a lack of progress.

Pool via Reuters/File -Ahn Young-joon/

EN­GROSSED: US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo speaks with South Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha at the pres­i­den­tial Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Oc­to­ber 7, 2018.

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