Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 6 News List

China, Russia in push to ease sanctions on N Korea


China and Russia have backed easing sanctions on Pyongyang “at an appropriate time,” as the South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha said Seoul was mulling lifting its own measures, threatening cracks in global restrictions on nuclear-armed North Korea.

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 North Korea, China and Russia agreed “it is necessary to consider adjusting sanctions on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] by the UN Security Council at an appropriate time,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late on Wednesday.

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

In contrast, the US, 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.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in favors engagement with North Korea and has dangled large investment and joint cross-border projects as incentives for steps toward denuclearization.

Seoul suspended most trade with North Korea in 2010 following a torpedo attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors.

Pyongyang has denied any involvement.

“We are reviewing it with related government agencies,” Kang told parliament on Wednesday.

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

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon yesterday added that there has been “no detailed review” on lifting sanctions, but said Seoul has taken measures for cross-border cooperation “in a flexible manner.”

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.”

South Korean media yesterday urged caution, saying relaxing sanctions now could jeopardize any chances for denuclearization.

“What brought the North to the negotiating table for denuclearization 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?” the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said.

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