S. Korea reaffirms firm response to N.K. nukes, but openness to civilian exchanges

SEOUL-- South Korea said Wednesday it will sternly respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations while flexibly considering resuming suspended civilian inter-Korean exchanges.

Seoul's assurance came amid concerns that South Korea's plan to seek engagement with North Korea may weaken coordinated fronts in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

"The United Nations Security Council's discussion on a new sanctions resolution is also part of South Korea's efforts to jointly respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile issues," Lee Duck-haeng, spokesman at the Ministry of Unification, told a regular press briefing.

"The government has firm principles of strongly responding to the North's provocations," he said.

At an emergency meeting held Tuesday (New York time), the UNSC discussed whether to impose additional sanctions against the North over Pyongyang's latest missile test.

President Moon Jae-in earlier vowed to seek a dual approach of pushing for North Korea's denuclearization and dialogue with Pyongyang.

The ministry said Monday that it plans to allow for civilian inter-Korean exchanges to an extent that the move would not compromise the international sanctions regime.

"As it is not desirable for inter-Korean relations to continue to be soured, we plan to flexibly review (the resumption) of civilian inter-Korean exchanges to an extent that the move would not hamper U.N. sanctions," Lee added.

The government under former President Park Geun-hye said it would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those vulnerable in North Korea, such as infants and pregnant women.

But Seoul has suspended almost all civilian inter-Korean exchanges since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

The ministry made it clear that it would push to resume the now-suspended joint industrial park and tour program with North Korea in accordance with progress over the resolution of the North's nuclear standoff.

A possible resumption of those projects may spark a row over the violation of U.N. sanctions resolutions that ban the transfer of large amounts of money.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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