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S. Korea not mulling lifting of 2010 sanctions on N. Korea: unification ministry

All News 11:41 May 22, 2020

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is not considering lifting sanctions imposed on North Korea in 2010 after its sinking of a South Korean naval ship, the unification ministry said Friday amid speculation over the possibility of their removal aimed at bolstering stalled inter-Korean relations.

On Wednesday, the unification ministry said that much of the sanctions have lost their intended effect and pose no obstacle in expanding "room" in inter-Korean relations, as previous governments have made various "exceptions" in their implementation.

This comes as South Korea marked the 10th anniversary of the sweeping sanctions, imposed on the North after the communist nation sank the South Korean warship Cheonan, raising speculation that the government has effectively removed the sanctions. Forty-six sailors died in the sinking.

"There isn't any plan to take follow-up measures at this moment," Yoh Sang-key, the ministry's spokesperson, told reporters in response to a question as to whether the government is mulling the removal of the 2010 sanctions.

He reiterated that the government has never mentioned the possibility of scrapping the sanctions.

The sanctions, known as the May 24 Measures, ban almost all inter-Korean exchanges and have been regarded as an extra hurdle in advancing ties between the two Koreas.

Some see the sanctions as merely symbolic, as most of the restrictions were already included in multiple global sanctions against the North, led by the United States, and call for the removal of what has been rendered useless.

Critics, however, say that the sanctions should be maintained until North Korea makes an official apology for the deadly incident. North Korea has denied any involvement in the 2010 sinking.

Speculation over South Korea's standalone sanctions comes as the South Korean government has recently pushed to expand cross-border cooperation as part of efforts to advance chilled inter-Korean ties amid a stalemate in denuclearization talks.

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said earlier this month that the government is mulling "practical" ways to bolster exchange and cooperation with the North in areas not subject to sanctions.

North Korea, however, has not responded to South Korea's offers for any cross-border cooperation since its no-deal summit with the U.S. in February last year. Pyongyang has also complained about Seoul dragging its feet in seeking major cooperation for fear of violating U.S.-led global sanctions.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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