South Korea announced Wednesday that it is considering lifting some of its sanctions against North Korea in order to encourage Pyongyang to denuclearize.
What are the details?
During a parliamentary hearing in Seoul, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told lawmakers that President Moon Jae-in’s administration was looking into lifting the country’s 2010 ban on bilateral trade with the North.
The China Post reported that the 2010 sanctions — known as the “May 24 measures” — were imposed following an attack on a warship that killed 45 South Korean soldiers that year. Investigators determined that a North Korean submarine had fired a torpedo that sank the vessel. Pyongyang denied any involvement.
Kang explained, “Many parts of the May 24 measures now duplicate with the United Nations sanctions (against North Korea). As negotiations continue to improve ties between the South and North and achieve denuclearization, there’s a need to flexibly review (lifting the measures) as long as it doesn’t damage the larger framework of sanctions against the North,” The Associated Press reported.
The U.N. sanctions against North Korea would remain in place, even if the May 24 measures were lifted.
But the AP said removing the trade restrictions could be a difficult task in Seoul, as South Koreans are deeply divided regarding their views on their northern neighbors. Many are still angry at the North for past assaults on their country, including the 1950 attack that started the Korean War.
Further, according to the New York Times, “any premature easing of penalties is bound to face a backlash from conservative South Koreans, who fear it could undermine their country’s alliance with the United States.”
The U.S. and South Korea have both opened diplomatic channels with the North in recent months in an effort to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to dismantle his nuclear weapons program.
Most recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea over the weekend, telling reporters on Tuesday that he had made “real progress.”
“While there’s still a long way to go and much work to do, we can now see a path to where we’ll achieve the ultimate goal, which is the full and final verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Pompeo said.