Seoul to ‘review’ inter-Korean liaison office plan

By Alex Jensen

SEOUL (AA) – Seoul will "review" the opening of an inter-Korean liaison office in North Korea, according to a presidential official on Monday.

The planned facility was an important outcome of April's first inter-Korean summit in over a decade, as both sides vowed to improve bilateral ties after years of military threats.

But with doubts already rising over whether the U.S. would offer its blessing due to sanctions on the North, Washington's denuclearization deadlock with Pyongyang has further threatened the future of the office — especially since U.S. President Donald Trump announced last Friday the cancellation of a scheduled visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to North Korea this week.

"The opening of the liaison office had been planned under smooth progress (in denuclearization efforts), such as Pompeo's North Korea trip and the South-North Korea summit, but we believe there is a need to once again review the issue since a new development has emerged," local news agency Yonhap quoted Seoul's presidential office spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom as saying.

The developments came as South Korean President Moon Jae-in is due to travel to Pyongyang next month for his third meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un this year.

"This is not an issue that can solely be decided by our government and is one that needs to be discussed with the North side, but we have yet to learn how the North evaluates the change in conditions," Seoul's spokesman added.

Following a flurry of unprecedented diplomatic engagement without actually agreeing a denuclearization timeline, Pyongyang has clearly stated its disappointment with the way the U.S. continues to stand in the way of its cooperation with the outside world by enforcing sanctions.

Meanwhile, Seoul is caught between its traditional ally, Washington, and efforts to bolster relations with its neighbor — particularly in areas of apparent disagreement between the U.S. and South Korea, such as the latter's desire to build ties on the peninsula and formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.

The U.S. insists North Korea can enjoy a prosperous future, but only after it fully denuclearizes.