U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday met with South Korea’s Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon in Washington to discuss North Korea’s denuclearization.
The meeting comes amid an apparent rift between Washington and Seoul on how to progress on DPRK sanctions policy, with the State Department’s press release on the meeting noting the two sides need to remain coordinated and aligned.
“(Pompeo and Cho) affirmed their commitment to close coordination during ongoing efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK as agreed to by Chairman Kim,” the State Department said.
“Both sides also discussed ways to deepen coordination so that inter-Korean cooperation and progress on U.S.-DPRK negotiations toward denuclearization remain aligned.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has openly called for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to roll back sanctions, while Washington insists they must stay in place until the DPRK is fully denuclearized.
Seoul is also looking into various infrastructure projects with North Korea, the logistics of which could push against any number of UN restrictions, including transfers of sanctioned commodities, materials and the establishment of joint ventures.
Unification Minister Cho is on a five day trip to the United States and has already faced questions about South Korea’s direction on sanctions during his visit.
Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar on Thursday, Cho said any planned projects would abide by UN resolutions and that sanctions would remain in place until North Korea is fully denuclearized.
“I understand some critics argue that the progress in inter-Korean relations has been way too fast while there has been no progress in North Korea’s denuclearization,” Cho said in comments carried by the Straits Times.
“The situation now is similar to the natural flow of a river that was once blocked for long time.”
But some of South Korea’s interactions with the DPRK may have already technically breached the UN’s measures.
In September, the two Koreas opened a liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Complex which required South Korea to send potentially sanctioned machinery and oil supplies north of the border.
Seoul said the transfers did not breach the UN’s measures as they did not aid the North Korean economy.