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Seoul needs sanctions exemption, official says

July 23,2018
A South Korean delegation that traveled to New York over the past weekend said Seoul needed to be exempted from some international sanctions against the North to implement the Panmunjom Declaration.

The remarks came on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that sanctions against Pyongyang will remain in place until the North fully denuclearizes.

The rare show of discrepancy between the allies came at an unusually sensitive time between the South and North, after North Korean media excruciated South Korean authorities for what it said was kowtowing to the U.S. on inter-Korean issues.

A local official said Pyongyang appeared to be fed up with Seoul’s reluctance to help the regime wiggle out of sanctions.

South Korea’s official stance has been to support sanctions on the North until the country gives up its nuclear weapons, but from time to time officials have expressed a hope to seek exemptions, especially to work out the cross-border projects that South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their first summit on April 27.

Last Friday in New York, a high-level South Korean official who spoke on the condition of anonymity decided to convey that hope to reporters - just as Pompeo highlighted in a different news conference that all UN member-states unanimously agreed to fully enforce sanctions on the North. The official was part of a delegation led by South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who traveled to New York to co-host a briefing session with Pompeo on peninsular issues for representatives of the UN Security Council.

Soon after the briefing, the official told South Korean correspondents in New York that the South Korean government “needed” some exemption from international sanctions on the North to implement the Panmunjom Declaration, adding that it was asking the international community to grant that exemption as it was leading the North through dialogue and cooperation.

Separately, Pompeo took questions from American reporters with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and said “strict enforcement of sanctions” was critical to achieving the goal of the “final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea, which the countries of the UN Security Council were united on.

Without giving any names, Haley said certain countries were thinking otherwise.

“What we have been seeing is certain countries wanting to do waivers, certain countries saying, ‘Let’s lift sanctions,’ certain countries wanting to do more,” she said. “What we continue to reiterate is we can’t do one thing until we see North Korea respond to their promise to denuclearize. We have to see some sort of action.”

Until that action happens, the envoy went, on, “the Security Council’s going to hold tight, the international community - we ask you to hold tight as we go forward.”

BY JUNG HYO-SIK, YOO JEE-HYE AND LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]