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Wednesday, February 03, 2021, 23:52
ROK urges US flexibility on sanctions to restart DPRK talks
By Reuters
Wednesday, February 03, 2021, 23:52 By Reuters

The ROK's unification minister Lee In-young listens to a question during a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondent Club in Seoul, the ROK, Feb 3, 2021. (AHN YOUNG-JOON/POOL/AP)

SEOUL - The United States should flexibly enforce sanctions aimed at curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear programs to revive denuclearization talks, the Republic of Korea (ROK)’s point man on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Wednesday.

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un and former US President Donald Trump agreed to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula at their first summit in 2018, but a second summit and subsequent working-level talks fell apart.

If we were to talk about additional sanctions, it’s time to review what achievements the sanctions have brought so far. Strengthening it might not be everything.

Lee In-young, ROK’s unification minister in charge of inter-Korean affairs

The new administration of President Joe Biden has not announced any DPRK policy, but Seoul, keen to resuscitate stalled cross-border economic cooperation, has expressed hopes that Biden would restart negotiations with Pyongyang.

READ MORE: ROK PM: DPRK, US should aim for initial nuclear freeze

Lee In-young, the ROK’s unification minister in charge of inter-Korean affairs, said reinforcing sanctions may not be the key to bringing the DPRK back to the table.

 “If we were to talk about additional sanctions, it’s time to review what achievements the sanctions have brought so far. Strengthening it might not be everything,” Lee told a news conference.

“We have to look back at the aspect that flexibly applying sanctions depending on the situation could play a role in expediting denuclearization negotiations.”

Lee’s remarks came after the ROK’s President Moon Jae-in urged Biden to build on progress made by Kim and Trump. Last week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told Reuters that Pyongyang and Washington should seek an initial deal including a halt to the North’s nuclear activity and a cut in its program in exchange for some sanctions relief.

ALSO READ: US sees importance of DPRK talks despite tension, ROK says

Lee did not elaborate on which sanctions should be loosened, but has called for exemptions to allow humanitarian inter-Korean exchanges, including providing assistance to help the North fight the coronavirus.

The DPRK has not confirmed any coronavirus cases and rejected Seoul’s aid offer.

Lee said his government could share testing kits, drugs and other supplies whenever the North accepted its proposal, though it has no plans to send vaccines yet.

“Working together on COVID-19 is a way to keep all of us safe, beyond helping them,” he said, referring to the shared border. “I hope the North would rethink the positive value of humanitarian cooperation.”


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