Seoul will review the opening of a joint liaison office with North Korea in Kaesong as negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang hit a stumbling block, the Blue House announced on Monday.
The news came after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision on Friday to cancel his Secretary of State’s planned trip to the DPRK, citing a lack of progress on denuclearization.
“The opening of the liaison office had been planned under smooth progress, such as Pompeo’s North Korea trip and the South-North Korea summit, but we believe there is a need to once again review the issue since a new development has emerged,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in comments carried by Yonhap News Agency.
“This is not an issue that can solely be decided by our government and is one that needs to be discussed with the North Korean side, but we have yet to learn how the North evaluates the change in conditions,” Kim said.
Originally planned to open this month at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, Seoul had hoped the liaison office could develop into a permanent mission and act as a precursor to a South Korean embassy in Pyongyang.
South Korea previously said it would push ahead with the office, despite international sanctions weighing over the logistics of conducting joint projects with the DPRK.
Seoul had not asked for an exemption from the UN’s measures, saying that the transfer of materials into North Korean territory would not provide the country with any economic benefit.
“As the South-North liaison office doesn’t undermine the purpose of sanctions on North Korea, the government judges that it’s unnecessary to request an exemption from sanctions,” an official at the MOFA, who wished to remain anonymous, told NK News on August 23.
A recent report from Reuters also highlighted how South Korea had already sent sanctioned materials worth nearly $1 million to North Korea to get the liaison office up and running.
The news came from customs figures released by a South Korean opposition lawmaker and showed the South had sent 113 tonnes of construction materials over the border to the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The materials included copper, nickel, steel and water heaters, some of which are covered by UN resolutions prohibiting certain exports to the DPRK.
“All the material, equipment and electricity are for the office’s operation and to ensure the convenience of our personnel,” a ministry official told Reuters.
While numerous provisions in UN resolutions on North Korea contain humanitarian exceptions, sectoral sanctions typically do not include additional conditions about economic benefits.
The most recent restrictions in UN Resolution 2397 covering the export of machinery and steel to the DPRK for example, contain no exceptions other than that of spare parts for the DPRK’s commercial airliners.
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Featured Image: Across the Demilitarized Zone by Georgia National Guard on 2013-12-13 00:56:23