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US stresses sanctions on NK in regard to Moon’s New Year’s address

The US State Department stressed that South Korea is required to implement sanctions against North Korea in regard to President Moon Jae-in’s New Year’s address, in which he vowed efforts to expand inter-Korean cooperation, Voice of America reported Thursday.

“All UN member states are required to implement UN Security Council sanctions resolutions, and we expect them all to continue doing so,” an official in the State Department spokesperson’s office said, according to VOA, when asked if Washington agrees with Moon’s plans to resume inter-Korean projects such as connecting cross-border roads and railways, or restarting the Kaesong industrial park and Kumgangsan tours.

US State Department (AFP-Yonhap)
US State Department (AFP-Yonhap)

In response to a question on whether the State Department agrees with the idea that reopening the Kaesong industrial park and Kumgangsan tours could help expedite the North’s denuclearization, the official once again suggested that sanctions came first.

“The United States and South Korea coordinate closely on our efforts related to the DPRK, and we mutually work to ensure that UN sanctions are fully implemented,” the official said, using the abbreviated form of North Korea’s formal name, according to the US broadcaster.

US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said in a media interview Tuesday that he wants to see “progress toward denuclearization in lockstep with success or progress in inter-Korean relations.”

He added that issues such as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to South Korea “should be done in consultations with” the US.

In regard to the ambassador’s remarks, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Wednesday that South Korea will push for joint projects with North Korea as much as it can on its own.

“As the party directly involved in the issues of the Korean Peninsula, South Korea will expand room for maneuver, and move forward with things that can be carried out independently as much as possible,” a ministry spokesman said, adding that Seoul will cooperate with the international community to resolve the North’s nuclear problem.

Also on Thursday, VOA reported that activity in major North Korean loading ports for coal has resumed to a level seen before sanctions were implemented.

Satellite images showed greatly increased piles of coal next to large vessels, and trucks constantly moving in and out of the ports, VOA said.

The broadcaster also said that a new large oil storage tank has been completed in the port of Nampo, and two more were being built.

Satellite photos taken in November showed heaps of coal in the ports of Songrim, Daean and Nampo, VOA said, adding that it observed about 50 trucks and nine vessels loaded with coal in just one day at the three ports.

The United Nations Security Council resolutions, adopted in 2017, ban North Korean exports of coal and limit the country’s imports of refined petroleum to 500,000 barrels a year.

The country, however, has been accused of continuing to trade coal and import oil through illegal ship-to-ship transfers.

By Kim So-hyun (