Permanent dismantlement of a high-profile North Korean nuclear facility could be a sufficient outcome from the second US-North Korea summit to reward the communist state with partial sanctions relief for inter-Korean economic projects, said Moon Chung-in, a special adviser to President Moon Jae-in.
Speaking at a roundtable at the Korea Economic Institute of America in Washington on Tuesday, Moon Chung-in said permanent dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear research complex would be “a first step to an irreversible phase” of North Korea’s denuclearization process.
The Yongbyon complex, believed to account for about 50 to 70 percent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, is home to all its reactors.
Moon was positive toward possible exemption of restrictions for joint economic projects between South and North Korea, including the resumption of operations at the Kaesong industrial park and tourism at Kumgangsan.
Asked if the United Nations Security Council would adopt a new resolution for sanctions relief for Pyongyang, he said it would be “a realistic option, but we should try.”
“The scale of sanctions relief will be a major issue (at the summit). There will be partial alleviation. Comprehensive sanctions relief will be difficult,” he said.
He also suggested possible ways to bypass international sanctions to resume operations of the inter-Korean industrial park and tours to the mountain resort in the communist state.
To avoid sanctions that ban the inflow of large sums of cash payments to the North, Kaesong workers’ wages could be directly paid to the workers, not to the regime. The South Korean government could also set up an escrow account to enable the North to use the money when it buys raw materials and goods in the South, he said.
Tourism at Kumgangsan could be restarted if the program is not run by the current operator Hyundai Asan to avoid the supply of “bulk cash,” he said.
Moon said such measures had been available to the South Korean government but it did not resort to them so as to maintain relations with the US.
Pyongyang has been eager to resume the two projects after its leader Kim Jong-un announced a major strategic policy shift toward economic development last year as part of efforts to shore up the country’s threadbare economy and enhance public support for the regime.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)