South Korea is looking into developing and financing economic projects with North Korea that could take effect if a nuclear deal is reached with the United States.
South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said on Wednesday the government was “internally carrying out preparations” to organize, finance and implement possible inter-Korea projects. But he also emphasized that Seoul would first seek support from the international community for any North Korean development projects, and would only proceed if the U.S. -North Korea summit, expected to be held in late May or June, produces a joint denuclearization agreement.
North Korea is under tough sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear weapons and missiles tests, including accelerated efforts in the last two years to develop a long-range nuclear missile that could potentially target the U.S. mainland. The international sanctions ban an estimated 90 percent of the country’s external trade.
Seeking sanctions relief is considered a key motivating factor in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic pivot this year to suspend further provocative missile and nuclear tests, and to engage in talks to dismantle his nuclear arsenal.
But easing sanctions would make it more difficult to enforce the North’s denuclearization promises.
“Once the sanctions are lifted, North Korea will gain autonomy over its trade, and considering its low labor costs and skilled workforce, I think the North Korean economy would gain power again,” said Shin Beom-chul, the director of Center for Security and Unification at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted he will keep sanctions in place until North Korea completely dismantles its nuclear program.
South Korea, however, is considering a range of economic incentives to encourage Kim to follow through on a nuclear deal with Trump. But these investments are prohibited by the U.N. sanctions and would require a Security Council exemption to proceed.
At the recent inter-Korean summit, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to increase economic cooperation, in addition to supporting the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Source: VOA news