The U.S. State Department made opposing comments about the remarks of South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young, who called for easing sanctions against North Korea and scaling down ROK-U.S. joint military exercises. Experts say the comments reflect Washington’s uncomfortable feelings about Minister Lee’s remarks.
Commenting on Lee’s remarks on resuming tour program to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang and lifting sanctions in the infrastructure sector, the State Department spokesperson’s office said on Monday (local time) that it is their great concern to prevent North Korea from making provocations, using force, and getting their hands on the most dangerous weapons program, and to maintain the safety of American people and their allies. The State Department told Free Asia Broadcasting (RFA) that the Joe Biden administration will review the current sanctions against North Korea and align them with its (new) policy towards North Korea. During a video conference hosted by the Center for Korean Studies at the University of Hawaii on Saturday , Unification Minister Lee In-young called for flexibility on sanctions against North Korea while mentioning the issue of Mount Kumgang tourism. He went on to say that he hopes the international community will build a consensus on lifting sanctions in the non-commercial public infrastructure sector, citing examples such as railways and roads.
As for Lee’s remarks on testimonies of North Korean defectors on human rights violations in North Korea, the State Department said as part of its North Korea review, the Biden administration will carefully review North Korea’s egregious human rights record and how to promote respect for human rights in the closed country.