China, Russia back easing DPRK sanctions
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.
Pyongyang is sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions over its weapons programs 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 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China and Russia agreed “it is necessary to consider adjusting sanctions on the DPRK by the UN Security Council at an appropriate time,” Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
In contrast, the United States, which spearheaded global efforts to squeeze the DPRK 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.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in favors engagement with the DPRK and has dangled large investment and joint cross-border projects as incentives for steps toward denuclearization.
South Korea suspended most trade with the DPRK in 2010 following a DPRK 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.
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 yesterday that there has been “no detailed review” on lifting sanctions but said Seoul has taken measures for cross-border cooperation “in a flexible manner.”
While arguing that improved inter-Korean relations could possibly facilitate progress in larger nuclear negotiations between the US and DPRK, Cho said Seoul isn’t ready yet to campaign for reduced pressure against its neighbor.
“At the current stage, I think it’s a little early for us to call for the lifting or easing of the UN sanctions,” Cho said.
In response to Kang’s remarks, US President Donald Trump said: “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval.”
Trump’s comments triggered heated debate in South Korea, with some lawmakers calling them an “insult.”
“‘Approval’ is a strong and insulting word meant to say that we are progressing too fast with the DPRK without seeking consensus with the United States,” said Kim Jae-kyung from an opposition party.
Moon has vowed to honor the UN sanctions, but Seoul opened a joint liaison office in the DPRK border city of Kaesong last month and has promised to pursue roads and rail projects between the two countries.
Last month, the DPRK’s foreign minister told the United Nations there was “no way” his country would disarm first as long as sanctions remain in place.