Seoul and Pyongyang should be ready to resume inter-Korean economic cooperation as soon as the international community lifts sanctions on the DPRK, South Korea’s unification minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Korea Global Forum in Seoul, Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Seoul is standing by to boost economic cooperation with the DPRK, while insisting that the ROK would not violate the international sanctions framework.
“The South Korean government is set to fully prepare for the situation when sanctions are lifted following the progress in the denuclearization while keeping pace with the international community…” Cho said.
Wednesday saw the minister acknowledge that it would be “difficult” to implement full-scale economic cooperation as long as sanctions remained in place, however.
To this end, the unification minister explained Seoul would seek to ensure the North’s denuclearization takes place “within a short period of time.”
“I believe the South and the North can still jointly make a preparation at this stage so that we can immediately prepare and start economic cooperation,” the unification minister said.
Ongoing inter-Korean working-level talks on railways, roads, and forest cooperation were part of “the process that both mutually get ready for the lift of sanctions in the future,” he added.
As part of follow-up measures to April’s Panmunjom Declaration, the two Koreas on Tuesday held a meeting to connect and modernize railway systems on both the east and west coasts of the Korean peninsula.
Meetings on inter-Korean road and forest cooperation is scheduled to be held on June 28 and July 4, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU).
Seoul and Pyongyang are also expected to conduct joint research on South Korea’s New Economic Map Initiative of the Korean Peninsula, Minister Cho also said on Wednesday, as soon as a planned inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong is opened.
Proposed in July and a key policy goal of the Moon administration, the initiative would see three economic belts connect the two Koreas economically: an energy-resource belt on the East Sea coast, an industry-logistics and distribution-transportation belt in the West Sea coast, and an environment-tourism belt at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The unification minister on Wednesday also reiterated Seoul’s support for the re-opening of the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
“Our government’s stance is that it should be reoperated and it is better to be re-opened at the earliest possible time,” Cho said. “But it is highly significant to resolve the issue within the sanctions framework against the North.”
The South Korean government agrees that sanctions should only be lifted once the denuclearization issue is resolved, noting that there had been no “detailed” discussion on when they might be lifted.
Seoul is not yet preparing “for the reoperation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” the minister said, pledging that Seoul “will do its utmost so that inter-Korean relations can reach the stage of institutionalization after the South-North summit held in Pyongyang during this autumn.”
The unification minister also said the Moon administration will implement April’s Panmunjom Declaration “more expeditiously,” and that it plans to accelerate and support negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.
“Realistically, I believe there is a lot of tasks that should be resolved in the process of implementing the [DPRK-U.S.] agreement,” he told participants. “The South Korean government can provide creative suggestions if needed.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Unification (MOU)
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