Korea, U.S., Japan envoys vow sanctions implementation

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Korea, U.S., Japan envoys vow sanctions implementation

Joseph Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said that both Seoul and Washington are in important periods of transition, which can provide an “opportunity” for North Korea.

In a joint press conference with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts Tuesday at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul, the top U.S. nuclear envoy emphasized that “trilateral efforts will remain the cornerstone of the international response to counter” North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

“Immediately after the [UN Security Council] resolution was finalized, the United States, Republic of Korea and Japan, after very close consultations, announced our own domestic sanctions targeting North Korea’s revenue streams that support these nuclear and missile programs,” said Yun, referring to the most recent UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea for its fifth nuclear test in September.

“These sanctions are the latest step in our ongoing efforts to convince North Korea that the only path to economic development and international recognition it claims to seek is by returning to credible negotiations on denuclearization,” Yun said.

“Of course, sanctions are a tool and not an end in themselves, and we have long made clear that we remain willing to engage in credible and serious denuclearization talks.”

Ahead of the press conference, Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, held talks with Yun and Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau. They lasted around two hours.

It was the first meeting of the three six-party talks envoys since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2321 on Nov. 30, which is expected to reduce North Korea’s coal exports by some $700 million if faithfully implemented.

Kim kicked off the meeting, emphasizing that next year will be a “critical juncture in terms of the North Korean nuclear issue” and that the three countries are “really fully in step with each other” on this “unprecedented” nuclear and missile threat from Pyongyang.

At the press conference, Kim said that the three countries agreed to maintain an around-the-clock information sharing system to verify the implementation of measures to block revenues to North Korea including a cap on its coal exports in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2321.

Kanasugi emphasized the importance of “maximizing the effects” of the Security Council resolution along with independent sanctions, as well as resolving Japan’s abductee issue with Pyongyang.

On the current political situation in Seoul, where the National Assembly impeached President Park Geun-hye last week, and in Washington, where Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as president next month, Yun said, “There is, to be frank with you, an important domestic transition going on both in Washington and Seoul. And I’m sure like everyone else, North Korea is watching those transitions carefully. So it is also an opportunity for them, to see what can be done for the ultimate goal of peaceful denuclearization.”

Yun, who doubles as the U.S. State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Korea and Japan, said on the Trump administration’s position on North Korea policy, “I would say the issues concerning North Korea or nuclear issues have already been a bipartisan issue… So I think the result of a fresh look or view will be quite consistent.”

Yun added that he met with China’s top nuclear envoy Wu Dawei, calling the collaboration between Beijing and Washington resulting in the latest UN Security Council resolution “very noteworthy.”

He referenced the Chinese Commerce Ministry’s announcement last week that it will freeze coal imports from North Korea for the rest of this year as an example of such cooperation, which he said will be effective in blocking revenue from getting into Pyongyang.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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