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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean state media on Friday denounced plans by Seoul and Washington to establish a DPRK-focus working group, saying the new organization was part of a U.S. attempt to “ruin” inter-Korean cooperation projects.
The U.S. and South Korea last month agreed to form a working group to strengthen coordination on diplomacy, the denuclearization process, sanctions implementation, and inter-Korean cooperation.
Friday saw the outer-track outlet the Uriminzokkiri accuse Washington of attempting to “tie up South Korea more thoroughly with the framework of the U.S.-ROK alliance.”
“It underlies the U.S.’s heinous inclination to ruin… inter-Korean cooperation projects at any time,” the outlet said, saying the Trump administration hoped to “contain and put on the brakes at all times to prevent South Korea from taking the lead in the North-South cooperation projects.”
“This shows that U.S. remarks that it would ‘support’ the improvement of inter-Korean relations were to deceive public opinion, and that the ‘ROK-U.S. alliance’ is just a snare for the U.S. domination and subordination of South Korea.”
“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.”
The South Korean government should not to “walk on eggshells around the U.S. if it has the willingness to write a new history of the North-South relations,” it added, calling for “thorough implementation of inter-Korean joint declarations.”
News that Seoul and Washington would form a working level group on North Korean issues came amid growing fears of a widening gap in the alliance on the DPRK, and followed meetings in Seoul between U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and high-ranking South Korean officials.
Biegun and his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon, who serves as Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, will reportedly lead the working group.
But though some South Korean local outlets and the Uriminzokkiri claimed this week that the working group will be officially launched this month, the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Friday declined to confirm the precise timing.
“We are preparing to launch it as soon as possible,” an official told NK News.
Lee Do-hoon previously told the press that he would endeavor to launch the working group in November.
Tuesday saw MOFA deputy spokesperson Kim Deuk-hwan tell press that Seoul was considering sending the top nuclear envoy to Washington to hold discussions on the outcomes of a now-postponed DPRK-U.S. meeting.
Kim also said it was expected that both sides would hold “detailed talks on the composition and launch of the working group.”
The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Friday announced, however, that unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon would visit New York and Washington between November 13 and 17.
Cho is scheduled to meet U.S. officials and member of Congress to “discuss inter-Korean relations and measures to establish peace on the Korean peninsula” and to attend events including the Korea Global Forum (KGF) hosted by MOU.
The formation of the working group has come as inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, including plans for rail and road cooperation, have been postponed.
South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha on Friday again admitted to well-publicized differences between Washington and Seoul over the issue.
“We have been discussing it continuously,” she told a meeting of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. “There some differences that need to be resolved.”
The second round of meetings of the inter-Korean research team for the connection and modernization of roads will be held next Monday at the Kaesong liaison office on the suggestion of Pyongyang, the unification ministry announced on Friday.
Pending issues including the schedule of a joint on-site survey of the Donghae line on the eastern part of the peninsula will be discussed, the ministry’s deputy spokesperson Lee Eugene told a press briefing, adding Seoul will continue close coordination with the U.S. and United Nations Command (UNC).
August saw the research team conduct its first joint survey of sections of the Gyeongui line between Kaesong and Pyongyang.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Pyeongyang Press Corps