Seoul seeks inclusion in nuke inspection

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Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha answers a lawmaker’s question during a National Assembly audit
, at the ministry building in Seoul, Wednesday. / Yonhap

The government is closely discussing with the U.S. about including South Korean experts in the inspection of the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site in the North, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Wednesday. The remarks came during the National Assembly’s audit of the ministry.

This was a response to Rep. Choo Mi-ae of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) who stated South Korean experts should be included on the team of international inspectors who will examine the Punggye-ri site.

Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo also said in a separate audit that Korea has “delivered its intentions so that it can take part when North Korea and the U.S. discuss nuclear inspection.”

Kang also said it appears more likely a declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War will be made within the year.

The minister, however, stated the declaration could could be nullified if North Korea goes back to making provocations, such as nuclear tests.

“The declaration would become invalid in circumstances under which the purpose of the declaration is defeated,” she said.

The minister said all sanctions on the North including those imposed by the U.N. Security Council will continue until it achieves complete denuclearization.

Regarding the question whether the inter-Korean project to connect railways went against sanctions on the North, she stated that under current circumstances, only preparations such as inspections are taking place and that actual construction will begin once the issue of sanctions is resolved.

A controversy brewed earlier in the day over the minister’s remarks that “related ministries are reviewing the lifting of South Korea’s May 24 sanctions.”

The sanctions were placed on North Korea on May 24, 2010, under the Lee Myung-bak administration, for the sinking of the South Korean Navy frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors in March that year.

They include bans on inter-Korean trade, North Korean vessels entering South Korean waters, South Koreans visiting the North and new investments in North Korea.

However, many of the sanctions have been eased or exemptions have been approved for them since.

Clarifying her remarks, the minister stated it was not the government’s immediate plan to lift the sanctions.

“Many of the elements in the May 24 sanctions are also in the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions on the North, so lifting the May 24 sanctions should be reviewed taking Pyongyang’s denuclearization into consideration,” she said.

“There is a need for the government to review the matter with flexibility while adhering to the framework of keeping the North Korean sanctions,” the minister said.