S Korea’s Moon says sanctions stay, too early to be optimistic

South Korean President says it is too early to be optimistic on denuclearisation

SEOUL/WASHINGTON: South Korean President Moon Jae In said yesterday sanctions on North Korea will not be eased for the sake of a summit between the two sides as Chinese state media repeated Beijing's line that talks are the only way to end the nuclear stand-off.

South Korean officials met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday in the first such encounter of its kind and said he had expressed his willingness to denuclearise if his country's security is assured.

US President Donald Trump said North Korea seems "sincere" in its apparent willingness to suspend nuclear tests if it holds denuclearisation talks with the US.

Tensions rose to the highest level in years over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, with shrill, bellicose rhetoric coming from both Kim Jong Un and Mr Trump.

North Korea has boasted of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the mainland US. But fears of all-out war eased last month, coinciding with North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics in the South.

"From looking at the news or Twitter, I believe President Trump is positive about the results of the North Korea visit (by South Korean officials)," Mr Moon told political party leaders. "However, as this is just the beginning, I believe we are not at a situation yet where we can be optimistic."

Mr Moon added he had no plans for an easing of sanctions.

"Just because there are talks ongoing between North and South Korea doesn't mean international sanctions can be eased," he said.

"There cannot be an arbitrary easing of sanctions; we do not wish to do that and I tell you now it is impossible."

South Korea's goal was the denuclearisation of North Korea, nothing less, said Mr Moon in comments distributed by the Blue House.

"We cannot have things like the prevention of nuclear proliferation or a moratorium as a final goal."

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programmes as necessary to counter US aggression.

North and South next month will have the first meeting between their leaders since 2007 at the border village of Panmunjom, Mr Chung Eui-yong, head of the South Korean delegation, said on Tuesday.- REUTERS