South Korea May Seek Sanctions Relief for North Korea Projects

(Bloomberg) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said her government would seek exemptions from international sanctions against North Korea to pursue “various” projects with Pyongyang.

Kang told reporters in Seoul that Secretary of State Michael Pompeo would discuss an end-of-war declaration and other offers the U.S. could make North Korea as it attempted to advance stalled nuclear negotiations. North Korea has been demanding the U.S. take “corresponding measures” to its “good-will gestures” such as halting its nuclear or missile tests since last year.

Kang’s comments came ahead of Pompeo’s expected fourth visit to North Korea on Sunday, where he’s slated to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and discuss a possible second summit with President Donald Trump. Trump and Kim held a first-of-its-kind summit in Singapore in June that generated significant attention, but only vague intentions from Kim to work toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“The South Korean government’s position on sanction exemptions is that we will request exemptions of sanctions to pursue various collaboration projects between North and South Korea,” Kang said. “Our stance is that we will continue to abide by the sanctions against North Korea and continue collaborating with North Korea without undermining the frame of the international sanctions.”

Possible Exemptions

Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk later clarified, saying the government would seek sanction exemptions “in the event they are necessary” to pursue inter-Korean projects that the two Koreas agreed to do in their leaders’ latest summit. South Korea had previously sought sanctions exemptions to invite North Korean athletes and officials to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.

North Korean leader Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in Pyongyang last month to link railways and roads between two Koreas as well as other inter-Korean exchanges. They also agreed to resume the operations at the Gaeseong joint industrial park when conditions are met.

Pompeo will be in Seoul on Sunday after his one-day trip to Pyongyang and meet President Moon and the South Korean foreign minister. The visit’s limited duration reflects the challenge the U.S. has in publicly pinning down Kim on what Pompeo insists was his private assurance that the regime was ready to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

‘Sufficient Trust’

Pompeo’s counterpart, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, told the United Nations on Saturday that the regime wouldn’t dismantle its arsenal without “sufficient trust” with the U.S., stepping up pressure on Washington to accept its demand to lift sanctions and declare an end to the 1950-1953 war on the Korean Peninsula.

Pompeo has said that North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons entirely before any sanctions can be lifted, while Kim’s government wants step-by-step sanctions relief and security guarantees to accompany any steps it makes toward an eventual goal of denuclearization.

Asked about when would be the right moment for North Korea to share its list of nuclear facilities other than Yongbyon, Kang said a more concrete picture would emerge after Pompeo’s upcoming visit to North Korea.

Kang also said in an interview published by the Washington Post on Wednesday that the South Korean government was asking the U.S. to hold off on a demand for an inventory of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. She said the U.S. should accept North Korea’s offer to close a key nuclear facility in Yongbyon, a proposal Kim floated last month during Moon’s own visit to Pyongyang.

“The U.S. understanding on the war-end declaration has made a significant progress,” Kang said in the briefing. “The key is what content will be contained in the war-end declaration.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.