October 19, 2018 11:49
The U.S. has asked South Korea for a list of potential cross-border projects and timetables and asked it to guarantee that they do not violate UN sanctions against North Korea, an American official said Thursday.
Alarmed by the announcement that the two Koreas want to kick off reconnecting cross-border railways and roads before the end of the year, the U.S. warned that it could withdraw support for all cross-border projects if even one violation of sanctions is discovered.
A senior official in the Trump administration told the Chosun Ilbo on Thursday that the U.S. does not oppose cross-border projects under the joint declaration signed at the inter-Korean summit in April. But the official added that the U.S. asked South Korea to submit a list of the projects it wants to pursue as well as a timetable and check which areas could potentially violate sanctions.
The official said there is a lot of potential for violating sanctions in the projects and it will not be possible to pursue all of them.
The official said the aim is to achieve "transparency" in talks about the projects, adding that Washington has warned it could withdraw support even for projects that already got the green light should any violations be revealed.
The U.S. asked South Korea to submit the list by last Monday, when the two Koreas held their latest round of talks, but Seoul missed the deadline.
In the meeting, North and South Korea agreed to hold a ground-breaking ceremony on the reconnection projects in late November or early December, though Seoul says actual work will have to wait until sanctions are eased.
The ground-breaking ceremony would not violate international sanctions, but construction would because many necessary supplies are under an export ban.
South Korean Ambassador to the UN Cho Tae-yul said on Tuesday, "Our intention is to start with ground-breaking. Once construction begins in earnest, there could be potential violations which can be discussed later."
The Moon Jae-in administration is pushing ahead with inter-Korean projects because it wants to keep the momentum of rapprochement going.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Thursday, "We are consulting closely with the U.S. and we expect good results." Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk also claimed, "Mutual cooperation is progressing smoothly between South Korea and the U.S."
In August, Seoul became embroiled in controversy when it established an inter-Korean liaison office in the North Korean border city of Kaesong because it supplied fuel for power generators there. Instead, it decided to supply electricity directly from South Korea to avoid caps on fuel exports to the North.
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