Seoul not considering lifting May 24 sanctions: unification minister

Oct 12, 2018, 09:31 am

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Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon speaks at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday./ Photographed by Song Eui-joo

By AsiaToday reporter Heo Go-woon

The South Korean government is not considering the possibility of lifting its sanctions imposed on North Korea following the March 2010 sinking of South Korean corvette Cheonan, Seoul's Unification Minister said Thursday.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a parliamentary audit on Thursday there has not been a detailed review on lifting the May 24 sanctions.

"Still, we have been taking flexible action in seeking inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation and amid improving and developing inter-Korean relations," Cho said. "Not only the current administration, but also Lee Myung-bak's and Park Geun-hye's administrations had taken measures in a flexible manner," he added.
Cho noted there should be a "measure" related to the sinking of the Cheonan warship by the North for the May 24 sanctions to be lifted. 

On Wednesday, the country's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the government was "reviewing with relevant ministries" whether to lift the sanctions. However, she practically took back the remarks later, saying there has been no intergovernmental review on the matter. 

When asked about Kang's comments on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters that South Korea would not relax sanctions "without our approval." When asked if he had contact with South Korea, he insisted, "They do nothing without our approval."

Trump's comments triggered heated debate in South Korea. "We are a sovereign state and we should discuss and share what can be shared within the framework of international law. It is inappropriate to say that we should be approved," Shim Jae-kwon of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said.

Some analysts say Trump is trying to put a brake on the Moon administration's move to ease sanctions on North Korea as China, Russia and North Korea believe it is necessary to consider adjusting U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang at an appropriate time.

"The United States has been repeatedly saying that sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearizes," said Kim Jae-kyung from the opposition Liberty Korea Party. "The word 'approval' meant to say that we are progressing too fast with the North without seeking consensus with the United States," Kim said.
The unification minister said it is too early to discuss easing or lifting the May 24 sanctions.

South Korea's presidential office said Thursday that Trump's latest remarks are meant to emphasize discussions between South Korea and the United States. "South Korea sees those remarks as a way of explaining that two allies discuss and agree on such measures before they act, and they only prove how closely the allies are working together," presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said.

#May 24 sanctions #Unification Minister #Cho Myoung-gyon #Donald Trump #sanctions 
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