‘Mount Geumgang tourism doesn’t violate UN sanctions’
Reopening Mount Geumgang tourism doesn’t violate sanctions, President Moon Jae-in said Friday, adding his administration would pursue a new approach to make the joint inter-Korean project happen.
“Regarding the Mount Geumgang tourism project, tourism itself doesn’t violate the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. But what matters is that the transfer of payment is something that would violate the economic sanctions,” President Moon said at the start of a dinner meeting with Cheong Wa Dae press corps held in Nokjiwon at the presidential office, according to press pool reports.
Moon said the South Korean government would pursue a “new way” for an early resumption of the inter-Korean tour program. “Because of the ongoing UNSC sanctions, it’s difficult to push forward with existing methods,” Moon said. Regarding the specifics of a “new way,” the President didn’t elaborate.
His remarks came a few hours after the South’s unification ministry accepted an offer from North Korea to discuss issues relating to the fate of South Korean-made buildings and structures at the resort in North Korea, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered their demolition.
Along with the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, the Mount Geumgang project is another symbolic inter-Korean business project. When Moon held his summit with Kim in September 2018 in Pyongyang, the two leaders agreed to resume cooperation on these two suspended economic projects, which are also core sources of income for the cash-strapped and impoverished North.
President Moon floated the idea of proposing a sanctions waiver to U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom, the five countries having permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
But Moon’s efforts were in vain, as some sanctions are more complex than others and touch on an even wider set of sanctions.
This year, Kim has promoted he will shift his top priority in state affairs to boost his country’s economic vitality.
According to political analysts, that requires easing the stiff sanctions, winning more foreign aid and attracting more foreign investment.
But Washington was worrying that the reopening of the industrial complex and the Mount Geumgang resort will violate the UNSC sanctions offering political risk insurance, and lead to the transfer of “bulk cash” to North Korea.
In recent working-level denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang negotiators, the United States offered “limited sanctions relief” allowing the North to export some raw materials such as coal.
But the North didn’t accept the offer as the streamlined sanctions provision wasn’t “good enough” as a benefit in return for presenting detailed and comprehensive denuclearization steps.
‘Kim Jong-un promises to denuclearize’
President Moon said he still believes Kim’s repeated promises to end his nuclear program.
“The two Koreas are referring to complete denuclearization. That is the same level of denuclearization that Washington wants. In that context, Kim told me several times he will do that. Kim’s willingness toward closing his nuclear program has been clearly shared with all who met with him including U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Moon said.
But the South Korean leader said the complete denuclearization of the North would only come after Kim’s “conditions” are met.
“If security guarantees are provided and the bright future of North Korea is ensured, then Kim will keep his repeated promises.”
It remains to be seen whether the United States will back up Kim’s wishes via dialogue, Moon said.
“When I delivered my speech to North Korean citizens during my visit to Pyongyang, it was just momentous and emotional. But I feel the relations between the North and South seem to have returned to the past.”
In a question over the possibility for a Cabinet reshuffle, Moon said he isn’t considering reshuffling his Cabinet anytime but soon.
“Except for the nomination of justice minister, there will be no Cabinet reshuffle. Also, I won’t be hesitant in appointing a justice minister,” the President Moon said.
The justice minister position is blank after President Moon accepted an offer of resignation from Cho Kuk over Cho’s alleged involvement in various financial crimes and wrongdoings by his wife for their daughter’s admission to a medical school.
President Moon’s appointment of Cho triggered a crisis for Moon and his administration which severely dented their popularity.
President Moon Jae-in, fifth from left, delivers his opening speech at the start of a dinner meeting with Cheong Wa Dae press corps held in Nokjiwon at the presidential office, Friday.