By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday that exemptions to U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea would be possible if they help further the resolutions' intended objective.
He made the remarks in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency in response to a question as to concerns the global sanctions regime could be undermined in the process of permitting North Korean athletes and its high-ranking officials to cross into the South to join the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The Netherlands chairs the UNSC's North Korea Sanctions Committee that monitors multiple sanctions that have been imposed on the North since 2006, when it conducted its first nuclear test. Rutte is to visit South Korea in time for the opening of the games scheduled for Friday.
"As the chair of the Security Council's North Korea Sanctions Committee, we will focus on the timely and full implementation of the sanctions. We plan to reach out to countries that might need assistance or more information about the details of this complex sanctions regime," he told Yonhap News Agency in a written interview.
"The Security Council's resolutions themselves state that exemptions can be made if they contribute to furthering the objective of the resolution. South Korea is in contact with UN experts to ensure that this is the case," he added.
On Wednesday, the North informed the South that Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Choe Hwi, the chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, will be included in a high-level delegation making a trip here this week.
Kim has been on a U.S. human rights blacklist since January last year. Choe is included in sanctions adopted by the U.S. and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The Seoul government is said to be in consultations with the U.S. and the UNSC on the matter.
At a time when the North is not showing signs of giving up its pursuit of nuclear and missile programs despite strong global condemnation, some especially among hardliners in the U.S. are raising possibilities of limited military action, such as surgical or preventive strikes against the North.
South Korea is hoping that the peaceful mood being generated by the North's participation in the games and resumption of contacts after a two-year hiatus will be channeled into building momentum to have meaningful denuclearization talks with the reclusive state.
Rutte expressed his support for the resumption of inter-Korean contact, saying "diplomacy" is the only way to find a solution to the current nuclear stalemate.
"The Netherlands welcomes the resumption of contacts with North Korea. The only way to reach a solution is through diplomacy. Let's hope the Winter Olympics will bring us one step closer to peace on the Korean Peninsula," he said.
Asked if it is time to resume long-frozen humanitarian assistance to the North, he said that sanctions do not target "ordinary" North Korean people but noted that the international community needs to make sure that the help "ends up with the people we want to reach."
In September, the South Korean government unveiled its humanitarian assistance plan worth US$8 million for North Korea. The plan has been suspended in the face of the North's continued missile and nuclear provocations.
Meanwhile, on bilateral ties with South Korea, Rutte reminded that the Netherlands sent its troops to fight alongside the South during the 1950-53 Korean War, drawing attention to the bond he thinks is "all the more special"
He hoped cooperation between the two countries will intensify in various fields.
"Our countries share excellent bilateral relations, and this bond is all the more special because our soldiers fought side by side in the Korean War," he said. "We actively work together on many issues, for instance on agriculture, high-tech and creative industries. We both focus on investing in 'smart' and 'sustainable' cities, and we can intensify our cooperation in this field."