Unification Minister Lee In-young said he is against additional sanctions on North Korea, which US Secretary of State has mentioned as one of the options the US may consider as it reviews its North Korea policy.
“To talk about further sanctions, it is about time to evaluate what kind of outcome the sanctions so far has brought,” Lee said during a meeting with the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Wednesday as he answered a question on what he thinks about Antony Blinken’s recent remarks.
“If strengthening sanctions is not the solution to all, there is a need to look back on how (US) President Biden said during the campaign that it was also important to mix tightening and easing of sanctions to allow (North Korean) Chairman Kim Jong-un or the (North Korean) people to look at their future.”
Lee stressed the need for humanitarian aid to North Korea, using Blinken’s words.
“Secretary Blinken said during the confirmation hearing that the US would also look at providing humanitarian help to North Korea if needed. We should take a note of this,” he said.
“I think this is because they expect a positive effect that humanitarian cooperation can bring even under sanctions. We need to reconsider at this point that making flexible changes to the sanctions, depending on the circumstances, could promote denuclearization talks.”
Blinken said during his first media interview after taking office last week that the US is reviewing its North Korea policy to use the most effective tools, including the possibility of further sanctions in coordination with US allies, as well as diplomatic incentives to deal with the problem that the North’s arsenal poses.
As for allegations that the Seoul government considered helping Pyongyang build a nuclear power plant, Lee dismissed the notion as a false rumor.
“The Unification Ministry is in charge of inter-Korean relations, and we have never had any consultations whatsoever about building a nuclear power plant in North Korea. In that blueprint for a new economy of the Korean Peninsula that we reportedly wrote and handed over, there is no mention of anything nuclear,” Lee said.
About his intention to visit North Korea as a special envoy during his term, Lee said the South Korean government is not considering sending any special envoy as of yet.
“(South and North Koreas) are somewhat communicating through open messages, and I hope the conditions for dialogue mature in a direction that improves inter-Korean relations,” he said.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com