Saturday 18 August 2018

South Korea 'won't ease sanctions on North,' says Moon

Visitors take pictures in front of banners placed on a barbed wire fence with messages wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea near the border with North Korea, yesterday. Photo: Ahn Young-joon / AP.
Visitors take pictures in front of banners placed on a barbed wire fence with messages wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea near the border with North Korea, yesterday. Photo: Ahn Young-joon / AP.

Christine Kim

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday that sanctions on North Korea will not be eased for the sake of a summit between the two sides as Chinese state media repeated Beijing's line that talks are the only way to end the nuclear standoff.

South Korean officials met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Monday in the first such encounter of its kind, and said he had expressed his willingness to denuclearise if his country's security is assured.

US President Donald Trump said North Korea seems "sincere" in its apparent willingness to suspend nuclear tests if it holds denuclearisation talks with the United States.

Tensions rose to the highest level in years over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, with shrill, bellicose rhetoric coming from both Mr Kim and Mr Trump.

North Korea has boasted of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the mainland United States. But fears of all-out war eased last month, coinciding with North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics in the South.

"From looking at the news or Twitter, I believe President Trump is positive about the results of the North Korea visit (by South Korean officials)," Mr Moon told political party leaders. "However, as this is just the beginning, I believe we are not at a situation yet where we can be optimistic."

Mr Moon added that he had no plans for an easing of sanctions. "Just because there are talks ongoing between North and South Korea doesn't mean international sanctions can be eased," he said. "There cannot be an arbitrary easing of sanctions; we do not wish to do that and I tell you now that it is impossible."

South Korea's goal was the denuclearisation of North Korea, nothing less, said Mr Moon in comments distributed by the presidential Blue House.

"We cannot have things like the prevention of nuclear proliferation or a moratorium as a final goal," said Mr Moon.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-'53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programmes as necessary to counter US aggression. The South hosts 28,500 US troops, a legacy of the war.

North and South next month will have the first meeting between their leaders since 2007 at the border village of Panmunjom, Chung Eui-yong, head of the South Korean delegation, said.

Irish Independent

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