Peace on the Korean peninsula and inter-Korean cooperation must move in conjunction with North Korea’s denuclearization, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press briefing in Washington D.C., Pompeo reiterated U.S. expectations moving forward and said that he believes the South Korean government is in “complete” agreement, this in spite of recent signs of policy differences between the two allies.
“We have made clear to the Republic of Korea that we do want to make sure that peace on the peninsula and the denuclearization of North Korea aren’t lagging behind the increase in the amount of interrelationship between the two Koreas,” Pompeo said.
“We view them as tandem, as moving forward together, we view them as important parallel processes,” he added.
The Secretary of State also said that the recently-established U.S.-ROK working group is designed to ensure that this takes place.
“We now have a working group that formalizes those processes so that we can be sure we don’t talk past each other, that we don’t take an action or the South Koreans don’t take an action that the other is unaware of or hasn’t had a chance to comment on or provide their thoughts,” Pompeo said.
The comments came the same day that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun were set to meet with South Korea’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon in the capital.
The purpose of the meeting is linked to the launching of the working group and “to further strengthen our close coordination on efforts to achieve our shared goal of final, fully verified denuclearization” more broadly.
North Korea has already lashed out at the arrangement of the working group, saying the new organization was part of a U.S. attempt to “ruin” inter-Korean cooperation projects.
“It underlies the U.S.’s heinous inclination to ruin… inter-Korean cooperation projects at any time,” an article published in state media outlet Uriminzokkiri said earlier in the month.
“The problem is the shameful response of South Korean authorities which puts on restrictions of subordination more deeply… by blindly obeying the U.S.’s contemptuous and highway robbery-like behavior,” it continued, accusing the U.S. of “arrogant behavior.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, despite aligning with the U.S. maximum pressure campaign in 2017, has largely responded to North Korean diplomatic overtures this year by seeking to advance inter-Korean cooperation as rapidly as possible.
Seoul has admitted, however, that slated projects agreed by both Koreas are impossible to implement as long as the existing sanctions regime remains in place.
While the U.S. has maintained that sanctions must remain in place until North Korean denuclearizes, Moon has lobbied for the rollback of sanctions in order to improve inter-Korean ties and encourage the DPRK to disarm.
While South Korean has publicly admitted that differences between the ROK and U.S. do exist with regard to certain cooperation projects with the DPRK, it insists that inter-Korean relations will be advanced within the framework of existing sanctions.
Featured image: State Department
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