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Unification minister stresses flexibility on sanctions against N. Korea

Unification minister stresses flexibility on sanctions against N. Korea

Posted January. 26, 2021 07:25,   

Updated January. 26, 2021 07:25


South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young said on Monday that he hopes to find a “wise” and “flexible” solution to prevent ROK-US joint military exercise from causing serious military tensions with North Korea, commenting on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s demand to suspend the joint drills. As for applying tougher sanctions on North Korea, which has been suggested by the Joe Biden administration, Minister Lee said that Seoul thinks easing sanctions against North Korea can help expedite denuclearization talks. Minister Lee suggested the need to scale down or suspend ROK-US joint military drills and, at the same time, stressed easing of sanctions against the North.

During a press conference held on Monday, Minister Lee said both Koreas and the U.S. are refraining from making moves that could create tensions, adding that he hopes North Korea will be also flexible (about ROK-US joint military exercises). Minister Lee said several factors, such as COVID-19, the Tokyo Olympics, Washington’s policy on the Korean Peninsula, and transfer of wartime operational control, need to be taken into consideration when determining whether to go ahead with ROK-US joint military drills.

A high-ranking official at the Unification Ministry said on the same day that a considerable amount of time has passed since the imposition of sanctions on North Korea but no tangible progress has been made. The official stressed the need to review the easing of sanctions against the North so that it could help expedite denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Minister Lee vowed to do everything in his power rather than taking a wait-and-see approach. He expressed hopes to hold virtual inter-Korean family reunions on the occasion of Lunar New Year, revealing plans to hold reunions of separated families on a day the two Korean can commemorate together. Minister Lee also expressed hopes for restoring dialogue channels with North Korea and resuming Red Cross talks. Accordingly, the Ministry of Unification is expected to propose to North Korea the resumption of Red Cross talks, aimed at holding virtual family reunions on the Lunar New Year holidays in February. All inter-Korean communication lines, however, have been cut off by North Korea since June of last year.

Oh-Hyuk Kwon hyuk@donga.com