A deadlock in inter-Korean relations and broader diplomatic tensions may be to blame for North Korea’s continued disinterest in accepting food aid from the South Korean government, a senior official at the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) said Wednesday.
Speaking at a briefing with media, the official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the South Korea government was still trying to confirm the North’s “official stance” on plans for the ROK to send 50,000 metric tons of rice to the DPRK via the World Food Programme (WFP).
Though unification minister Kim Yeon-chul in June committed to providing the food aid by the end of September “without delay,” North Korea later suggested it would reject the assistance in protest against a then-ongoing joint ROK-U.S. drill.
Speaking on Wednesday, the MOU official said the South had been forced to “temporarily suspend” the plan in the wake of that uncertainty.
“North Korea has not yet clearly expressed its stance since then, we continue to try to confirm it,” the official said. “After we confirm their official position, I believe we should end [the plan] at the right time if North Korea is no longer willing to accept [the aid].”
During the closed-door meeting, the official added that they believe “North Korea is also in a very difficult position” vis-a-vis the aid delivery for two main reasons.
“First, it is placed in a difficult situation to turn down aid from an international organization as this project is to support the people in cooperation with an international organization,” they told the assembled media.
“But we also assume that [North Korea] has a lot of worries about [the aid] in a situation where it cannot easily receive the food, which clearly is provided by South Korea, taking into account current inter-Korean relations,” they continued.
The North also appears to have reasons beyond the recent military drills for rejecting the aid, the official said.
“On the whole, there is a great deal of pressure on [North Korea] about showing any kind of friendly measures and cooperation between the two Koreas,” they told reporters.
“By extension, our official stance is that [the rejection] appears to be the expression of discontent over negotiations between North Korea and the U.S. and pressure on South Korea.”
The unification ministry believes the North is in a too “difficult situation” to make a decision on accepting large-scale food aid assistance from the South Korean government, the official said.
Unlike food aid, the North generally accepts other humanitarian aid projects concentrating on improving maternal and child health, they continued, arguing that the DPRK has continued to request assistance.
In addition to its attempts to deliver rice, the South Korea government in June wired $8 million to the WFP and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
A total of $3.5 million was provided to UNICEF’s maternal and child health care project and $4.5 million was funneled into the WFP’s nutrition support program.
The South Korean government did not take part in “direct negotiations” with the North before deciding the provision of 50,000 metric tons of rice, the MOU official on Wednesday explained.
“As we push ahead with humanitarian assistance separately from the political situation, we do not make decisions through formal negotiations,” they said. “We unilaterally provide pro bono aid.”
As a result, the official said, no “special agreement” was needed between the two Koreas.
But this is not the first time in the past year that the North has rebuffed humanitarian aid provided by the South.
Seoul, for example, is yet to push ahead with providing $3.2 million worth of Tamiflu to the North since the plans were officially announced in early January.
Despite the North’s unresponsiveness, the MOU official on Wednesday argued that its efforts would lead to the improvement of inter-Korean relations.
“Sending food aid through WFP… was a sincere measure to seek the normal development of inter-Korean relations as well as provide substantive support for North Korean people and improve the quality of their life,” they said.
In addition to the food aid, the official said, the administration has “continuously and consistently proposed a number of sincere measures to improve South-North relationship.”
“I believe that the government’s sincere and truthful will receive a response from North Korea one day.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News
Speaking at a briefing with media, the official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the South Korea government was still trying
Os textos, informações e opiniões publicados neste espaço são de total responsabilidade do(a) autor(a). Logo, não correspondem, necessariamente, ao ponto de vista do Central da Pauta.