U.S. warns Seoul about need to keep up sanctions

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U.S. warns Seoul about need to keep up sanctions

The U.S. State Department is urging South Korea to abide by UN sanctions as President Moon Jae-in flies to Pyongyang for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, accompanied by an entourage including top executives of the country’s four major conglomerates.

The Voice of America (VOA) on Monday quoted an official from the U.S. State Department spokesperson’s office as saying Saturday, “We expect all member states to fully implement UN sanctions, including sectoral goods banned under UN Security Council resolution and expect all nations to take their responsibilities seriously to help end the DPRK’s illegal nuclear and missile programs.” The DPRK is an acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

This came in response to the announcement that Moon’s special delegation to Pyongyang included Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and Kim Yong-hwan, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group.

Sectoral sanctions cover goods North Korea is banned from exporting under UN Security Council resolutions 2371, 2375 and 2397 including coal, minerals and lead and lead ore, food and agricultural products, machinery, electrical equipment and textiles.

The State Department official further suggested, according to the VOA report, that inter-Korean economic cooperation could be in violation of UN sanctions, as would be trilateral energy development projects involving the two Koreas and Russia.

When asked whether Russian gas giant Gazprom’s reviving of plans to build a gas pipeline from Russia’s Far East to South Korea - through North Korea - would be in violation of UN Security Council sanctions, the official replied, “All UN Member States are required to implement UN Security Council sanctions resolutions and we expect them all to continue doing so.”

The official also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2018 director general report “accurately represents the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear activities and continued developments to its UN-proscribed nuclear program” and that it shares the “IAEA’s views that the DPRK’s nuclear activities are a cause for grave concern.”

The report on the “Application of Safeguards in the DPRK,” released at the end of August, underscores that the IAEA has not been able to access North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site, or any other of its facilities, calling its continued nuclear activities and violations of UN Security Council resolutions “deeply regrettable.”

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said on Sept. 10 in a board of governors’ meeting, “The agency continues to enhance its readiness to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear program if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned.” This would refer to some sort of denuclearization deal between Washington and Pyongyang.

The official underscored to the VOA that the United States and its allies are committed to the joint goal of a “final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong-un.”

The FFVD principle has been used in place of the more commonly understood complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, or CVID terminology, after the June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald
Trump and North Korean leader Kim in Singapore.

The State Department has reiterated its stance that “the improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea’s nuclear program,” in which it was actually quoting President Moon.

Moon told Stephen Biegun, the U.S. State Department’s new special representative for North Korea, during a visit to the Blue House in Seoul last Friday, that the improvement in inter-Korean relations and denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States facilitate each other, “creating a virtuous cycle.”

A Washington source told the JoongAng Ilbo Sunday, “Rather than raising concern over discussion of economic cooperation at the third inter-Korean summit, the State Department is reconfirming its position of emphasizing the complete implementation of sanctions on the North.”

The U.S. Treasury Department announced its latest sanctions against North Korea last Thursday, blacklisting a Chinese IT company and its Russia-based sister company, to target “revenue North Korea earns from overseas information technology (IT) workers.”

Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology, based in Jilin, China, the company’s North Korean CEO, Jong Song-hwa, and its Vladivostok-based sister company, Volasys Silver Star, were blacklisted by the Treasury Department.

The United States was set to convene a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday in New York to address recent efforts by some members, namely Russia and China, to undermine and obstruct UN sanctions against North Korea.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Friday called out Russia for undermining UN sanctions on North Korea.

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