South Korea will continue to enforce international sanctions on North Korea, but it also believes that improved inter-Korean ties can contribute to the North's denuclearization, Seoul's top envoy to Washington said Tuesday.
Speaking at a forum, Ambassador Cho Yoon-je addressed a perceived uneasiness in the United States that South Korea is making concessions to the North, potentially in violation of international sanctions on the regime, before the dismantlement of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
Cho said South Korea is committed to faithfully implementing the sanctions.
"I want to emphasize that it continues to be our position that the inter-Korean process should proceed along with the denuclearization process," he said. "But we also think that these processes may not always move at the same speed. Positive momentum on one side can pull the other process along, creating a virtuous cycle."
The first two summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paved the way for the unprecedented U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in June, he said.
And the third inter-Korean summit last month helped revive stalled post-summit negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, according to Cho.
"When the inter-Korean process moves a little ahead of U.S.-North Korea talks, it can create leverage for Seoul to play the facilitating role and break the deadlock in the latter," the ambassador said.
This week the two Koreas agreed to begin in late November or early December to modernize and connect railways and roads across their shared border.
In response, a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap that the U.S. expects all U.N. member states to fully implement U.N. sanctions on the North and take seriously their responsibility to help end the regime's illegal nuclear and missile programs.
"As President Moon has stated, 'The improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea's nuclear program,'" the spokesperson said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency