A day ahead of scheduled high-level talks, North Korea ramped up its calls for South Korea to implement the agreement reached between their leaders in April, and lambasted Seoul for its slowness to do so.
Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean propaganda website, cited Seoul’s “blind obedience” to the US-led sanctions as a major reason behind lackluster progress on implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration, adopted at a landmark summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 27.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (right) embraces his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un at the inter-Korean summit held at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27. (Yonhap)
“It’s been more than 100 days since the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration was adopted, but no fruit or progress has been produced. It is because of America’s sanctions and the South’s unfair participation in them,” it said.
It also criticized Seoul’s efforts to closely communicate with its ally on receiving sanctions exemptions for a slew of inter-Korean projects, including restoration of a military hotline in the West Sea and transportation of materials needed for the opening of a joint liaison office on North Korea soil, saying that it was incapable to taking such matters into its own hands.
It further complained that the South only “focused on projects such as a joint review, investigation or research, that were not directly linked to economic gains” and was “hesitant about the actual implementation, citing conditions not being met.”
US-led pressure campaign coupled with sanctions put in place to cripple North Korea’s economy have been frustrating Pyongyang, as it seeks to give its full attention toward achieving economic prosperity. The US has repeatedly stressed amid apparent stalemate in relevant talks that the sanctions will remain in place until a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is achieved.
Together with Pyongyang’s increasingly insistent demands, the roster of North Korean officials for Monday’s high-level meeting prompted concerns from experts that the North may pressure the South into taking further steps for inter-Korean economic cooperation that could border on sanctions violations.
But Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday showed heightened expectations that the meeting would set the groundwork for another summit, with the presidential spokesman saying that logistical details of the third inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim are likely to be determined during the meeting.
“We expect the date, venue and size of the South Korean delegation to be agreed on during the high-level talks Monday in light of the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a press briefing.
According to the list confirmed Saturday, Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, is to lead the North Korean delegation, which includes Vice Railroad Minister Kim Yun-hyok and Pak Ho-yong, vice minister for land and environmental protection and Pak Yong-il, vice chairman of the reunification committee.
Seoul is in the process of carrying out joint research with Pyongyang on restoring and modernizing railways and roads connecting the Korean Peninsula along with reforestation of North Korea’s decimated woodlands, in an attempt to foster cross-border ties without overstepping on the boundaries of UN sanctions.
“Based on the roster, it seems North Korea is focusing more on implementation of the Panmumjom Declaration rather than preparation for a new inter-Korean summit. It could be a preview of a meeting where it could tell the South to properly implement the agreements before talking about a possible summit in the fall,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.
Monday’s meeting aims to discuss preparations for an inter-Korean summit and review progress on implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration, based on the North’s message that was sent to the South Thursday. The declaration states that Moon had agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall.
Experts also said that even if the North doesn’t raise inter-Korean economic cooperation as a key issue, the issue of sanctions as a major obstacle for the implementation of the agreements is likely to come up.
“There is a low possibility that the North will suddenly ask the South to make a milestone move regarding cross-border economic cooperation,” said Cha Du-hyeogn, a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Noting the liberal Moon government’s cautious attitude in the current situation, Cha said “It’s important for the Seoul government to clearly tell Pyongyang that the reason behind the stagnant progress in implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration is because of the sanctions, whose existence depends on North Korea’s decisions in its negotiations with the US on denuclearization.”
Monday’s high-level meeting is slated to kick-off in the morning at the truce village of Panmunjom.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead South Korea’s four-member delegation. Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, Nam Gwan-pyo, a senior director from the presidential National Security Office and director-general Ahn Moon-hyun from the Prime Minister’s Office are set to join Cho.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)