Tensions surface between Seoul and White House over North Korea strategy

by WorldTribune Staff, October 12, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump’s comment that South Korea’s government of President Moon Jae-In would not move to lift sanctions on North Korea “without our approval” apparently did not sit well with some officials in Seoul.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the Blue House in Seoul on Oct. 7. / Pool photo by Kim Hong-Ji

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Hwa had said that Seoul was reviewing the lifting of sanctions on Pyongyang, but she “later backed down, citing the need to review the matter flexibly within the framework of not undermining international sanctions on the North,” The Korea Times reported on Oct. 11.

The Moon Jae-In government replaced former conservative President Park Geun-Hye who was impeached on corruption charges. Conservatives in South Korea have staged demonstrations accusing the government of making concessions to the North in exchange for only verbal assurances.

Trump said; “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval.”

The Cheong Wa Dae (Blue House) offered a diplomatic response to Trump’s remarks, stating, “this means that all matters will be carried out based on consultations between South Korea and the U.S.”

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon, however, said “The expression that we cannot do anything (without U.S. approval) seems inappropriate. There are some things we can do and the U.S. agrees about and understands this.”

Cho said many of the elements in the sanctions regime have already been eased and exemptions have been sought amid progress in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 7 stated the U.S. stance was that “it should be ensured progress on inter-Korean relations is in lockstep with progress on denuclearization.” Pompeo made the comment after meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-In in Seoul following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Pyongyang.

The U.S. State Department, regarding Kang’s statement on the possible lifting of sanctions, renewed its stance that Trump has clarified the easing of sanctions on North Korea would be possible only after the Kim Jong-Un regime gets rid of its nuclear weapons.

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