Trump Says Seoul Can Do Nothing Without U.S. Approval
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday deepened a rift in the alliance with South Korea after hints that South Korea could lift some sanctions against North Korea.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha earlier told the National Assembly that "a review is underway" of South Korean sanctions imposed after the North sank the Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010.
"They won't do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval," Trump told reporters at the White House. This is the first time that the U.S. president publicly rebutted comments by South Korea's foreign minister. Kang had already backpedaled. "I believe I made incorrect comments," she told lawmakers when her remarks provoked an uproar.
But Trump also incurred the ire of South Koreans by suggesting that the U.S. dictates policy across the board, which some saw as at least a breach of diplomatic protocol.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom tried to calm waters by saying, "We take the comments to mean that there should be consultation on all the issues between [South] Korea and the U.S."
The South Korean Embassy in Washington also sent out an urgent e-mail to diplomats in Washington shortly after Kang's comments denying that Seoul is minded to ease the so-called May 24 sanctions.
"The easing of the May 24 sanctions will be considered comprehensively based on inter-Korean relations and the situation involving North Korea," the e-mail said.
It added that Kang only meant to say that Seoul wants to look at the matter flexibly within the framework of international sanctions as cross-border dialogue and denuclearization talks continue.
Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said in a National Assembly hearing Thursday that no specific consideration had been given to lifting the sanctions. He added that "related measures must take place regarding the Cheonan, which was the cause" of the May 24 sanctions.