U.S. to Launch Working Group for Inter-Korean Projects

  • By Jeong Woo-sang, Shin Eun-jin

    November 01, 2018 10:45

    The U.S. State Department is setting up a working group to coordinate strategies on North Korea while ensuring that South Korea is on the same wavelength with the U.S. when it comes to abiding by sanctions against North Korea.

    Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, will lead the group and monitor whether inter-Korean economic projects are in line with the sanctions imposed on North Korea.

    The U.S. government was also confirmed to have requested major South Korean conglomerates to submit reports detailing their inter-Korean projects and to be ready for a conference call.

    Washington appears to have taken concrete steps to put the brakes on cross-border projects as Seoul seems to push ahead with them because it wants to keep the momentum of rapprochement with North Korea going.

    Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (center) meets with Stephen Biegun (left), the U.S. special representative for North Korea, and U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris at the government complex in Seoul on Tuesday.

    Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters Wednesday, "The purpose of the working group is to have close consultations between [South] Korea and the U.S. over the denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula."

    A Foreign Ministry official also said that the main focus of the working group is "communication" rather than "monitoring" and added that Seoul made the proposal first.

    According to government sources, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul already requested Samsung, SK, Hyundai, LG and POSCO to submit documents regarding their inter-Korean projects.

    "The U.S. Embassy told us to take part in a conference call next week explaining what economic cooperation pledges we made during our trip to Pyongyang in September and how we plan to pursue cross-border projects," an executive at one of the conglomerates said on condition of anonymity.

    The move appears aimed at halting private South Korean businesses from being prodded by the government to engage in business with the North.

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