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(LEAD) S. Korea mulling over whether to pursue logistics project with N. Korea, Russia

All News 16:40 March 03, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 10, 14, 15)

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Thursday it is reviewing whether it should move forward with a trilateral logistics project involving the two Koreas and Russia, as Seoul is poised to slap its own sanctions on North Korea.

The so-called Rajin-Khasan logistics project calls for the shipment of Russian coal into South Korea through the North Korean port city of Rajin. Since late 2014, South Korean firms involved in the project have conducted three test operations.

But Seoul has suspended consultations over whether or not to clinch a formal contract with Russia since North Korea's long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.

Russia's foreign ministry said Wednesday that the project would not be affected by the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) new resolution expanding sanctions against North Korea.

Seoul's unification ministry said it will take various factors into consideration in deciding whether or not to maintain the project.

"The government is studying whether to proceed with the project after examining the goals of the latest U.N. sanctions and Seoul's envisioned actions to punish the North into consideration," said an official at the Unification Ministry.

Touching on Seoul's unilateral sanctions, the ministry official said that the government plans to unveil a set of unilateral actions soon, but not this week.

"At least, the announcement will not be made this week," the official said.

Seoul is considering expanding its own punitive actions against Pyongyang, adding to existing sanctions imposed in May 2010 to punish the country for the sinking of a South Korean warship.

Measures under review are believed to include an entry ban on vessels that have traveled through North Korea and a tighter grip on Seoul's existing punitive sanctions imposed in May 2010.

Last month, the government also suspended a jointly run industrial complex in North Korea's border city of Kaesong in response to the North's missile provocation.

If Seoul decides to impose an entry ban on ships that have traveled from North Korea, it may be difficult to push for the trilateral coal shipment project, experts said.

The Rajin-Khasan logistics project has been viewed as a symbol of three-way cooperation and an exception to Seoul's May 24 sanctions on the North.

Meanwhile, South Korea's foreign ministry said that it and other government agencies held a meeting earlier in the day to discuss how to implement the new U.N. resolution.

A U.N. member state should submit a report on how to enforce a fresh resolution to the UNSC within three months of when the 15-member council adopts it.


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