Unification Minister Lee In-young met with US Ambassador Harry Harris on Tuesday, seeking support from the US for South Korea’s push for inter-Korean cooperation projects, and called for adjustments to the South Korea-US working group that coordinates North Korea policy.?
It was the first time the minister had met with a foreign envoy since he took office last month.?
During the meeting, Lee reiterated his stance of wanting to start with humanitarian cooperation and small-scale trade with Pyongyang, and then work toward fulfilling promises and agreements between the two Koreas amid the deadlock in the allies’ efforts to denuclearize North Korea.?
“In order for these ideas to be fulfilled, the US’ cooperation and support is very important,” Lee told Harris.?
The two also exchanged perspectives on the working group, which the two allies established to coordinate North Korea-related issues, including sanctions.?
“I have stated my position many times that we have to distinguish between what needs to be discussed through the working group format from things that can be pursued on our own,” he said. “Because we can still implement necessary policies (regarding North Korea) while abiding with international standards and rules.”?
Lee called for upgrades to the working group to dispel concerns that the current format is putting the brakes on inter-Korean ties.?
He stressed that the format needs to be readjusted and reorganized so that it expedites the peace process on the Korean Peninsula and advances inter-Korean relations.?
In response, Harris showed support for Seoul’s push for inter-Korean relations, while stressing the importance of pursuing matters through the working group format.?
“As a closest friend and ally of the Republic of Korea, the US strongly supports inter-Korean cooperation and finding ways to do so through the working group, as this plays an important role in creating a more secure and stable environment,” said Harris, adding that he looked forward to understanding more fully the parameters of Lee’s envisioned “Working Group 2.0.”
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com