South Korea should avoid policies that may undermine international efforts to put pressure on North Korea, the office of the Japanese Prime Minister said on Thursday.
The South Korean government announced on Thursday that it will next week decide on plans to send over USD$8 million in aid to North Korea via international organizations.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, when asked about the plans, said while he did not want to “specifically comment” on the policy, actions that undermined efforts to pressure the North should be avoided.
“North Korea has been continuing provocative actions ever since the nuclear test on September 3 and this is time to heighten the pressures toward North Korea and this policy is going to be very important,” Suga said, in comments released by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office. “And then we see there was a unanimous vote to go through very strict and strong sanctions against North Korea.”
“This is the very clear intention of the international community to the DPRK. And any other actions otherwise should be refrained.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU), which is responsible for the plan, declined to immediately comment on Suga’s statement.
The humanitarian assistance to the North, if approved, would be the first from South Korea to Pyongyang since President Moon Jae-in’s inauguration in May.
“[The government] will discuss the plan to send 8 million dollars of support upon the request of the international organizations including UNICEF and WFP (World Food Program),” an MOU official told assembled media at a closed-door briefing, in comments confirmed to NK News.
A concrete decision will be made at the meeting of the Inter-Korean Exchanges and Cooperation Promotion Council on September 21.
The unification ministry said the administration is considering the provision of USD$4.5 million to a WFP plan to improve the nutritional status of children and pregnant women, and USD$3.5 million to UNICEF projects supplying essential medicines, vaccines, and medicine for treating malnutrition in children and pregnant women.
“We will make a decision on the details of the support and the timing of the implementation and among others while considering the overall conditions including the inter-Korean relations in a comprehensive manner,” the official said.
The MOU last week denied reports in multiple South Korean outlets that the Moon administration had suspended a plan to send USD$6 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which will conduct North Korea’s first population and housing census in a decade next year.
“It’s not appropriate to say that [Seoul] has held off – the government hasn’t made any decision on the issue,” ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told media during a regular news briefing. “However, we will review the issue in the cooperation with the international community over continued provocations by North Korea, and the public opinion.”
If the Moon administration agrees to the plans next week, humanitarian aid to the DPRK via international organizations will resume in around 21 months.
The Lee Myung-bak and the Park government did not send humanitarian aid through international organizations in 2010 and 2016, but did provide funding, via international organizations and third parties, between 2011 and 2015 – with funding peaking in 2014 at KRW 14.1 billion (USD$12,445,788).
Since May, the Moon administration has pursued what it calls a “dual-track approach” to North Korea, seeking denuclearization through pressure while simultaneously promoting dialogue and engagement.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon reiterated on August 21 that the government would “continue to provide humanitarian assistance, regardless of the political situation” at the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
On July 8, Moon said his government would work with international and civilian organizations to provide humanitarian aid to countries with underdeveloped healthcare systems, including North Korea.
Moon said humanitarian assistance “in the field of the health and medical services should not be connected to political situations” and that Seoul was paying close attention to the DPRK’s long-standing chronic malnutrition issues.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House
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