August 19, 2020 12:29
Unification Minister Lee In-young on Tuesday complained that a South Korea-U.S. working group ensuring compliance with sanctions against North Korea has "hindered progress" in inter-Korean relations and needs reorganizing.
Lee lodged the complaint with U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris when they met in Seoul on Tuesday but was given short shrift. Harris said the working group "is an efficient mechanism."
"The working group has received positive feedback on one hand for its effective discussions in terms of sanctions," Lee said, but added, "I would like to mention that there was criticism that it has served as a hindrance to inter-Korean relations."
He called for changes to the working group so it "facilitates the development of inter-Korean relations and Korean Peninsula peace policy."
"I believe we must restart inter-Korean dialogue and push ahead with cooperation in the humanitarian field… and small-scale trade as the recent statement… has been protracted," Lee said.
But Harris reminded his host of the need to achieve complete denuclearization of the North. "The U.S. strongly supports inter-Korean cooperation and finding ways to do so through the working group, as this plays an important role in creating a more secure and stable environment," he added.
The working group was launched in November 2018 to ensure coordination in implementing international sanctions against the North.
South Korea has repeatedly fallen foul of it by lunging into sudden schemes for economic cooperation with the North, such as cross-border tourism.
The North has responded to none of these overtures, so the question is largely academic for now.
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