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US State Dept. says it supports inter-Korean cooperation

US State Department (AFP-Yonhap)
US State Department (AFP-Yonhap)

The US State Department said it supports inter-Korean cooperation, Voice of America reported Friday.

“The United States supports inter-Korean cooperation and coordinates with our ROK ally to ensure inter-Korean cooperation proceeds in lockstep with progress on denuclearization,” an official at the State Department spokesperson’s office said, when asked to comment on recent remarks by the South Korean foreign minister, according to the US broadcaster.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Tuesday that inter-Korean relations and US-North Korea relations can’t always progress at the same pace.

“Our basic stance is that US-North Korea and inter-Korean dialogue should complement each other and move in a virtuous cycle,” Kang told reporters after meeting with her US and Japanese counterparts in Palo Alto, California, on Tuesday.

“I think that at certain points in time, US-North Korea relations can progress first or inter-Korean relations can move forward first.”

The State Department official did not respond to VOA’s question on whether it believes inter-Korean cooperation can help promote dialogue between the US and North Korea.

Until recently, the State Department has stressed sanctions in regard to Seoul’s plans to resume inter-Korean projects.

“All UN member states are required to implement UN Security Council sanctions resolutions, and we expect them all to continue doing so,” the department said last week, when asked by the VOA to comment on President Moon Jae-in’s New Year’s address in which he vowed efforts to expand inter-Korean cooperation.

US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said Thursday that South Korea should consult with the US about its plans to engage with North Korea to avoid any “misunderstanding” that may trigger sanctions.

President Moon said earlier this week that individual tours to the North do not violate the UN sanctions and that it could eventually induce the North to return to dialogue and win international support for partial relief of sanctions.

“President Moon’s continued optimism is encouraging,” Harris was quoted by Reuters as saying to foreign journalists in Seoul.

“But with regard to acting on that optimism, I have said that things should be done in consultation with the United States.”

By Kim So-hyun (