Seoul claimed on Wednesday that it is considering lifting some of its unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang, a move seen as creating more momentum for diplomacy aimed at improving relations and defusing the nuclear crisis in the Korean Peninsula.
The Yonhap news agency reported that the Republic of Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said during an annual parliamentary audit of the ministry that "a review (of the issue) is under way".
Kang was responding to a question about whether the government is willing to lift the sanctions called the May 24 Measure, imposed by its previous conservative administration of Lee Myung-bak in 2010.
Kang indicated that the government is considering the removal of the May 24 Measure largely as a symbolic step to help improve the Seoul-Pyongyang relations.
"Many parts of the May 24 measures now duplicate with the United Nations sanctions," Kang said. "As negotiations continue to improve ties between Seoul and Pyongyang and achieve denuclearization, there's a need to flexibly review lifting the measures as long as it doesn't damage the larger framework of sanctions against Pyongyang".
Analysts said the most meaningful result from lifting the May 24 measures would be the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's ships being able to travel through Jeju Strait between the ROK mainland and its southern island of Jeju again, which will save time and fuel for businesses run between the two neighbors.
Shi Yongming, an Asia-Pacific studies researcher at the China Institute of International Relations, noted that the recent inter-Korean engagement has given new momentum in resolving the Korean Peninsula issues and is crucial to resolving the standoff between the United States and DPRK.
Shi pointed out that ROK president Moon Jae-in was accompanied by ROK business leaders during his latest visit to Pyongyang. Moon and DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un also agreed to normalize operations at the Kaesong factory park and resume joint tours to the DPRK when possible, voicing optimism that the international sanctions could end and allow such projects.
If the ROK lifts its unilateral sanctions, it will have a positive effect in boosting economic exchanges between Pyongyang and Seoul, but is unlikely to persuade Washington to give up its sanctions, Shi added.
Australia and Japan on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to continue pressuring the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons program and enforcing sanctions on Pyongyang.
Yonhap said Moon has served as a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington and trying to ease relations between the two sides, as they are trying to work out the date and location of a second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Shi said since the first summit there has been little progress but many setbacks in U.S.-DPRK relations. He said a single or two summits can't solve the complicated issue of denuclearization, but more importantly is that the two sides should narrow down ideological differences and be open to dialogues.
According to a joint statement signed by Trump and Kim during their first summit held in Singapore on June 12, the U.S. would provide a security guarantee to the DPRK in return for Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.