US-South Korean tensions over stance towards North Korea
28 November 2018
South Korea announced last weekend that the UN Security Council had finally granted an exemption from sanctions for its plans to work with North Korea on a joint survey as the first step towards reconnecting rail and road links between the two Koreas severed during the Korean War of 1950–53.
While the US did not use its veto in the UN Security Council to block its ally, the Trump administration is increasingly dissatisfied with moves by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to foster closer relations with North Korea prior to a deal on its denuclearisation. Washington effectively delayed the planned survey in August, and again last month, by declaring that it could violate UN sanctions.
Trump is insisting that the US will not lift punitive sanctions on North Korea until it has met his demands for the dismantling of its missile and nuclear arsenals, production facilities and programs. He met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June which produced a vaguely-worded, joint statement agreeing to “the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” in return for unspecified security guarantees from the US.
The US has wound back its joint military exercises with South Korea, and North Korea has halted all missile and nuclear testing. However, after more than five months, talks between the US and North Korea have stalled. Washington has rejected North Korean calls for moves towards a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War and a step-by-step lifting of sanctions in return for moves to denuclearise.
A meeting earlier this month between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-chol was cancelled. Last week a North Korean website criticised…