US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday October 10th that Seoul will not lift sanctions on North Korea without American approval, after the South Korean said earlier that some one-sided punitive measures were under review.
Trump’s refusal to let South Korea ease sanctions alone outlines the official position of the United States and South Korea that the two countries remain in lockstep on North Korea.
He has urged US allies to maintain sanctions on North Korea until it denuclearises as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Pyongyang.
Asked about reports South Korea was considering the lifting of some sanctions against North Korea, Trump said: “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval.”
According to Reuters, South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha asserted during a parliamentary audit on Wednesday that Seoul was debating whether to ease its own sanctions against the North to encourage its denuclearisation.
South Korea imposed unilateral sanctions on the North in 2010 following an attack on a warship that killed 46 South Korean sailors, prohibiting most bilateral trade and exchanges.
Kang later took back her comments after they sparked criticism from some conservative lawmakers, claiming North Korea should first apologise for the attack.
The South Korean foreign ministry also officially denied that the government was reviewing the matter.
Nevertheless, there are growing calls for easing sanctions.
Meanwhile, China, Russia and North Korea believe it is necessary to consider modifying UN sanctions against Pyongyang at an appropriate time, China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
In an uncommon sign of discordance between Seoul and Washington, South Korea’s Kang also said on Wednesday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had expressed “discontent” with an inter-Korean military pact reached during a summit last month.