January 20, 2020 12:20
The U.S. State Department on Friday said it has "a lot of confidence" in Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris, who had been slammed by politicians here for saying any inter-Korean business projects need U.S. approval.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told VOA, "The ambassador serves at the pleasure of the secretary and the president [and] our secretary has a lot of confidence in our ambassador."
"We're thankful and grateful for the ongoing important relationship that our two governments have, and we will continue to work together on incredibly important and sensitive issues like this one," she added.
Ortagus insisted the U.S. respects the sovereignty of foreign countries and voiced confidence that South Korea will make the "best decision" when it comes to improving cross-border relations. She added the U.S. and South Korea will continue to "cooperate."
Harris on Thursday warned South Korea should run a plan to revive individual tourism to North Korea through a joint working group to "avoid a misunderstanding later that could trigger sanctions."
A spokesman for the Unification Ministry declined to comment directly but said any policy vis-à-vis North Korea "falls under our sovereignty."
President Moon Jae-in had mooted the plan in his New Year's address, and Harris' remarks irked some lawmakers here. A Cheong Wa Dae official said it is "inappropriate" for an ambassador to make such remarks to the president of the host nation.
"The issue of [inter-Korean] cooperation is a matter for our government to decide, although Seoul is always in close consultation with Washington," he added.
Sul Hoon, a four-term lawmaker of the ruling Minjoo Party, expressed "grave regret" over the ambassador's remarks. "Such comments, like interference in domestic affairs, are not helpful to the alliance relationship," Sul said in a meeting last week.
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