South Korea never considered lifting sanctions against North Korea imposed over the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, the country’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said on Thursday.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Wednesday that the sanctions, imposed against Pyongyang following a torpedo attack on a corvette that killed 46 South Korean sailors in 2010, were under review.
North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking, reports Reuters.
Kang’s remarks on sanctions, retracted after criticism from South Korean lawmakers, prompted US President Donald Trump to say South Korea would need US approval to relieve sanctions.
“They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Trump told reporters, when asked about her comments.
Trump has said sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearises.
Kang backtracked on her remarks after facing criticism from some conservative lawmakers that the sanctions cannot be removed unless North Korea first apologised for the attack, a stance adopted by former South Korean governments.
The sanctions ban all North Korean ships entering South Korean ports and cut off most inter-Korean exchanges, including tourism, trade, and aid.
“There will need to be action regarding the issue of the Cheonan warship, which was the cause (of the sanctions),” Cho said during a parliamentary audit.
Trump’s comments triggered heated debate in South Korea, with some conservative lawmakers calling them an “insult”.
“‘Approval’ is a strong and insulting word meant to say that we are progressing too fast with the North without seeking consensus with the United States,” said Kim Jae-kyung from a conservative opposition party.
China, Russia, and North Korea believe it is necessary to consider adjusting UN sanctions against Pyongyang at an appropriate time, China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
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