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Moon to push 'sanctions easing' agenda to Trump

Kim Hyun-chong, deputy head of the presidential office's security council responds to questions from reporters upon his arrival from Washington D.C., April 5, after having consultations with U.S. government officials and politicians ahead of the upcoming summit between President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump at White House, April 11. Yonhap
Kim Hyun-chong, deputy head of the presidential office's security council responds to questions from reporters upon his arrival from Washington D.C., April 5, after having consultations with U.S. government officials and politicians ahead of the upcoming summit between President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump at White House, April 11. Yonhap

By Kim Yoo-chul

President Moon Jae-in plans to pitch his ambitious "sanctions easing" agenda when he meets U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, April 11, sources at Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) said Sunday.

The South Korean leader, a self-proclaimed "facilitator" of denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea, is expected to stress why "greater engagement" matters in addressing a simmering disagreement between Washington and Seoul over a possible easing of some of the economic sanctions on Pyongyang, they said.

"The failure of the Hanoi summit was still an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of what Pyongyang and Washington want to make progress in that respect. Moon plans to embrace the risk of personal diplomacy by asking Trump to grant reciprocal measures after Seoul and Washington laid out the necessary groundwork via working-level discussions," one Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Despite the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, Trump said his personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was "good" before canceling additional "large-scale" U.S. Treasury sanctions on the North to keep the denuclearization talks on track.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gestures while speaking during a news conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington, April 4, 2019. AP-Yonhap
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gestures while speaking during a news conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington, April 4, 2019. AP-Yonhap

Moon first tried to push his sanctions-easing agenda at the beginning of the nuclear disarmament talks, however, this fell flat as he failed to get the backing of other countries having greater stakes in the process. His government then created a body to coordinate diversified approaches with Washington and other key allies with regard to the North Korea nuclear issue.

As to which sanctions would be addressed and the level of easing, the official said, "It's likely President Moon may raise the lessening sanctions that affect the lives of the North Korean people."

Upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport from Washington D.C., last week, deputy chief of the presidential security council Kim Hyun-chong told reporters that his meetings with senior U.S. government officials and politicians to discuss the agenda for the Washington summit were "good."

But Kim said the meetings didn't cover the timing and other details related to a possible resumption of two frozen inter-Korean projects ― the reopening of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and tours to Mount Geumgang ― due to the complexity of the matter.

"President Moon is set to have a long conversation with Trump on other issues beyond the normalization of joint inter-Korean projects as their key focus will be on how to avoid further backtracking and get nuclear diplomacy back on track," a DPK lawmaker said.

In Hanoi, the North agreed "in principle" to accept verification inspections of its key nuclear complexes by U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts "in due time." Kim also requested an easing of sanctions in return for a timetable for the handing over a list of its nuclear inventory, including the whereabouts of existing and undeclared uranium, and plutonium enrichment facilities.

Trump didn't accept the request at the time, saying the North had asked for "complete sanctions relief."

Since then, however, the U.S. has hinted that it is open to offering "relief from certain sanctions" that could be immediately restored if the North resumed its nuclear activities ― the so-called "snapback" mechanism.

Previously, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui clarified the North's position, telling reporters it had asked for the partial easing of sanctions from UNSC resolution Nos. 2371, 2375, 2270, 2321 and 2397, which it believes relate directly to standards of living.

"Following his meeting with Trump, President Moon plans to deliver messages to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un via a special envoy once he returns to Cheong Wa Dae. I have no idea what the messages will be but they may include how a compromise between Washington and Pyongyang can be reached before another U.S.-North Korea summit that could produce a deal," said the DPK lawmaker requesting anonymity.

Deputy security chief Kim said Seoul is considering sending an special envoy to North Korea depending upon the developments at the upcoming. He didn't specify who the envoy would be, though officials have said this would be spy chief Suh Hoon given his brokering of previous inter-Korean summits.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was "confident" the U.S. would hold another summit with the North to further denuclearization talks.

"We're determined. I'm convinced the North Koreans are determined as well. Chairman Kim has promised me, he's promised President Trump, he will denuclearize," Pompeo said in response to a question from "CBS This Morning," Saturday (KST).


Kim Yoo-chul yckim@koreatimes.co.kr


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