U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he supported the provision of humanitarian food assistance to North Korea during a call with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in, according to a statement from the Blue House.
The two leaders discussed North Korea’s recent short-range missile test and a recent joint food security assessment from the World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“President Trump assessed that South Korea’s provision of food to North Korea in a humanitarian move will be very timely and a positive step and supports it,” Blue House spokesperson Ko Min-jung said.
But the White House’s statement on the call was shorter and made no mention of humanitarian support for the DPRK.
“President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea,” the White House said.
“The two leaders discussed recent developments regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and how to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK,” it added, while the White House press office declined to provide additional information on the call.
The UN report published on Friday concluded that 10.1 million North Koreans remained food insecure and predicted falling crops yields, expanding food shortfalls and noted lower Public Distribution System (PDS) rations.
“Overall, it is estimated that 10.1 million people (40 percent of the population) are food insecure and in urgent need of food assistance,” the report reads.
“Prolonged dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, coupled with limited supplies of agricultural inputs, had a severe impact on yields of the 2018 main crops harvested last September/October.”
Countries are not prohibited from sending humanitarian aid to North Korea, though some items like farming machinery, industrial and medical equipment must first be granted a sanctions exemption from the UN, which can slow down the aid delivery process.
However, there are no UN restrictions on sending food and many agricultural products to the DPRK, with Russia and Switzerland both regularly sending cereal shipments and dried milk powder respectively.
During their call, Moon and Trump also discussed the DPRK’s recent weapons test over the weekend and, according to South Korean media, the two leaders concluded their response was “appropriate and very effective.”
The two leaders also talked about how to keep diplomacy moving forward despite the test, which was likely a new kind of short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).
But Washington has so far not condemned the test, with U.S. Secretary of State on Sunday saying no response was planned and that he would keep trying to negotiate with Pyongyang, while South Korea appears reluctant to say North Korea tested a missile.
“We still believe that there is an opportunity to get a negotiated outcome where we get fully verified denuclearization. Chairman Kim has repeated that,” Pompeo told U.S. media over the weekend.
“He has repeated that quite recently, in fact. And so we hope that this act that he took over the weekend won’t get in the way. We want to get back at the table. We want to continue to have these conversations.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Blue House