SEOUL, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Rival party lawmakers in South Korea clashed sharply over the Moon Jae-in administration's coordination of its North Korea policy and trade relations with the United States, News 1 reported.
The main conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party on Wednesday, criticized President Moon for ordering a firm response to Washington's trade pressure on South Korea, deeming the move a "diplomatic disaster."
LKP Chairman Hong Jun-pyo said the United States' trade actions were a retaliatory move against "the pro-North Korea Moon administration" and that if it does not revise its North Korea policies, Washington may continue pressuring the South.
"Many are concerned as security alliance and trade need to go hand in hand but the Moon government is making no such efforts," LKP lawmaker Kim Do-eup said.
Kim claimed that while pointing the finger at Washington, the government has undermined global efforts to impose sanctions and pressure on North Korea which has threatened to fire missiles at the U.S. mainland.
Earlier this month, South Korea asked the United Nations to temporarily lift a travel ban on a North Korean official so that he could attend the Pyeongchang Olympics. Seoul waived its own sanctions on Pyongyang to allow a North Korean ferry to transport an arts delegation to the South.
Minor opposition Bareun Future Party chief Yoo Seung-min also voiced concern that the incumbent government is mismatching policies with Washington, shooting down the government's claim that security and trade issues can be separated.
The ruling Democratic Party chairwoman Choo Mi-ae hit back at the remarks, branding them as "low-level criticism," No Cut News reported.
"Trade is an independent field of international relations that can be separated from military and diplomatic issues for the sake of national interest," she said.
Calling the "pro-North" remarks inappropriate, DP Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo denied the accusation and asked the conservative party how it would feel being labeled as "pro-Japanese."
"The government is also managing relations with the U.S. with gravity," he said.
He hinted the U.S. could use trade as a means to pressure the South.
"But I'll tell you, you know, when you talk about driving a wedge, we also have a thing called trade. We have a trade deficit with South Korea of $31 billion a year. That's a pretty strong bargaining chip to me," he said.