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(LEAD) PM: Sanctions on N. Korea cannot be lifted in exchange for talks

All Headlines 17:54 March 08, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS remarks in paras 9-11)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Sanctions on North Korea cannot be lifted just because the communist nation agreed to hold talks and there must be convincing progress in those talks before any reward can be considered, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Thursday.

Lee made the remark during a meeting with U.S.-based members of the National Unification Advisory Council, referring to a series of breakthrough agreements that the two Koreas reached when a group of South Korean special envoys met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim agreed to hold a summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April, expressed a willingness to hold denuclearization talks with the U.S. and offered to suspend nuclear and missile tests while talks are under way.

The landmark deal raised questions among conservatives about whether any reward would be given to Pyongyang.

"We're not in a situation where we can lift sanctions just to hold dialogue," Lee said. "That is because sanctions are a U.N. decision and it's difficult to believe the U.N. would make such a decision (to ease sanctions) just because dialogue has started."

Lee said he believes the North fully understands it cannot receive any reward at this stage.

Progress that is acceptable to the U.S. and the international community should first be made in the course of dialogue between the North and the U.S. and between the South and the North before "corresponding measures" can take place, Lee said.

"I'm saying this because some people may be concerned that something could be offered, rewards could be given and sanctions could be eased only for dialogue," Lee said. "We're in a situation where it is difficult for such things to happen."

On Thursday, South Korea's presidential national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and the state intelligence chief, Suh Hoon, headed to the U.S. to brief President Donald Trump and other top officials on the results of their talks with the North's leader.

The South wants to encourage the North and the U.S. to reopen denuclearization talks.

"Before late April, dialogue between the North and the U.S. can take place at whatever level it is. I hope so," Lee said.

Lee said this week's deal doesn't mean everything has been resolved but that it is a "decent start."

"There could be critical moments and a great deal of patience may be required of us, but we will overcome them," he said.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon delivers an address during a meeting of U.S.-based members of the National Unification Advisory Council at a hotel in Incheon, west of Seoul, on March 8, 2018. (Yonhap)


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