July 27, 2018 11:49
A U.S. State Department official on Thursday urged South Korean businesses to slow down economic cooperation projects with North Korea.
At the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Mark Lambert met 15 executives of companies like Hyundai Asan, KORAIL and KT that have been involved in business projects in North Korea.
According to executives who were at the meeting, Lambert explained Washington's opposition to easing sanctions against North Korea in an assertive tone of voice. The key message was that the sanctions are continuing despite the atmosphere of rapprochement, and that executives should not rush ahead with projects in North Korea before sanctions are lifted.
Lambert cited cases when the South Korean government obtained permission from the UN Security Council for temporary exemptions but warned that they must not be interpreted as an easing or lifting of sanctions.
Seoul recently received approval from the UNSC to transport fuel, materials and vehicles to the North to repair a military hotline and facilities for the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Lambert said it was the "principle" of the U.S. government to continue sanctions until North Korea fully denuclearizes. He added that businesses that want to pursue projects in North Korea should consult with their government first and if necessary, "directly ask the U.S."
One businessman who was there said, "We interpreted the comments as saying it is impossible to engage in business with North Korea until U.S. sanctions against North Korea are lifted."
A Foreign Ministry official claimed the aim of the meeting "was not to warn businesses, but to present guidelines so that they will not end up becoming victims of secondary boycotts by violating sanctions."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke over the telephone on Wednesday with Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon. The two officials reportedly discussed the issue of abiding by sanctions against North Korea.
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