The Korea Herald


Nuclear envoys vow to sever North Korea funds

By Choi Si-young

Published : June 13, 2023 - 18:23

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The flags of South Korea (right) and the United States. (123rf) The flags of South Korea (right) and the United States. (123rf)

South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Kim Gunn, and his US counterpart, Sung Kim, reaffirmed their commitment to respond sternly to North Korea’s aggression, including blocking illicit funds from bankrolling North Korea’s weapons programs.

“We have agreed to step up our efforts to cut off funds to the North’s nuclear and missile programs,” Kim Gunn said of his meeting with the US special representative in Washington.

The North is refusing to comply with international sanctions meant to curb its nuclear development, having conducted a string of weapons tests. Two weeks ago, Pyongyang launched what it claimed was a military reconnaissance satellite amid suspicion that it was testing a ballistic missile, which uses the same technology. United Nations sanctions ban the country from using such technology.

“We will be prepared to deal with the North,” South Korean envoy Kim said, referring to a second launch North Korea suggested could take place shortly after the failed initial launch. Pyongyang contends launching a satellite is part of its self-defense, saying a spy satellite, in particular, would enable it to closely monitor US military activities.

Any second launches, Sung Kim said, will prompt not only sanctions but military responses from South Korea, the US and Japan -- a three-way coalition working on disarming the North.

“It’s important to make North Korea pay for any attempts to escalate tension,” Kim said, stressing the coalition “has always been open to dialogue.” Pyongyang refuses to return to talks, citing sanctions relief as a precondition Washington should meet. The US and the North last took part in talks in October 2019, a meeting that left no progress.

The chief nuclear envoys from Seoul and Washington added that their efforts towards disarmament are not designed to wait on North Korea’s responses.

“What we’re trying here is to lead the regime to disarm itself,” South Korean envoy Kim said, calling the joint policy on North Korea a comprehensive blueprint built on both deterrence and diplomacy. South Korea and the US this year resumed their annual military drills. North Korea calls them a “rehearsal for invasion” while the two allies label them a “test for readiness.”

Moreover, South Korea and the US signed a pact in April giving the South a bigger say in any potential US nuclear response to the North’s nuclear attacks.

Meanwhile, the two envoys noted will also step up efforts to monitor rights abuses in North Korea -- a task they said will gain more spotlight on the international stage as South Korea takes on bigger global roles. Seoul will start its two-year term on the UN Security Council in January next year, marking a return to the UN’s most powerful body after a 11-year hiatus.