U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo said on October 3 that sanctions on North Korea will be maintained until denuclearization. That day, the North said the U.S. should ease the sanctions if it wanted any progress in their negotiations. Under the circumstances, the South Korean government reportedly proposed a compromise linking the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities to an end-of-war declaration.
The U.S. state secretary held a press conference that day and said that he is optimistic about the second U.S.-North Korea summit and joint efforts for denuclearization. But he made it clear that economic sanctions on the North would continue until complete denuclearization, ruling out the possibility of exempting inter-Korean economic cooperation projects from the sanctions.
The North criticized the U.S. in response. The Rodong Sinmun reported that the North will never beg for lifting of the sanctions and it is the U.S. that should handle the sanction issue if there can be any progress in the negotiations and denuclearization.
Amid the ongoing tug of war, the South Korean government asked the United States to accept the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities as a step for denuclearization and postpone submission of the nuclear facility list by the North.
“The past experience shows that the list and the verification about the list takes a lot of back and forth, and I think the last time things broke down precisely as we were working out a detailed protocol on verification after we had gotten the list, so I think based upon that experience we want to take a different approach,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, adding that an end-of-war declaration is for South Korea a political declaration rather than a legally binding treaty. In other words, the South Korean government is planning on exchange between the shutdown and the declaration followed by subsequent reporting of the list and its verification.
In the meantime, North Korean official Choi Sun-hee, who is in charge of Washington-Pyongyang talks, visited Beijing on October 3. It is said that the visit is to exchange denuclearization-related opinions with China ahead of the U.S. State Secretary’s visit to the North.