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Key lawmaker urges Seoul to lift sanctions on N. Korea

2014/08/27 17:23

SEOUL, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- The head of South Korea's parliamentary foreign affairs committee called on Seoul Wednesday to lift its sanctions on Pyongyang and resume stalled tours to North Korea's scenic mountain resort to help improve strained relations.

Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoo Ki-june, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the National Assembly, made the case to bring an end to confrontation between the two Koreas and move toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The sanctions "should be lifted for reduction of tension and dialogue between the two Koreas" without prior measures from North Korea, Yoo said in a news conference.

Some lawmakers and North Korea experts have repeatedly called for the lifting of the sanctions, a key demand by North Korea for better ties with South Korea.

South Korea has made a conditional offer to lift the sanctions imposed in May 2010 in retaliation for the deadly sinking of a warship blamed on North Korea.

Seoul wants Pyongyang, among other things, to admit its involvement in the sinking that killed 46 South Korean sailors in March 2010. A South Korean-led international investigation found that North Korea torpedoed the vessel, although Pyongyang has denied its responsibility.

The ruling party lawmaker's comments came after threats by North Korea to launch a preemptive strike against South Korea in response to South Korea-U.S. annual joint military drills.

North Korea has condemned the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise as a rehearsal for an invasion. Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said such exercises are purely defensive in nature.

Yoo also called for South Korea to resume tours to Mount Kumgang on North Korea's east coast, another key demand of the North.

South Korea halted the tour program in 2008 after a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard.

North Korea has yet to comply with Seoul's demand for responsible measures to ensure the safety of South Koreans. The tour program had provided a legitimate source of hard currency to cash-strapped North Korea.