South Korea to resume aid to North

Lester Mason
September 21, 2017

The plan is to give $8 million through United Nations agencies supporting children and pregnant women - representing a South Korean U-turn after Seoul made a decision to halt aid to its impoverished neighbor after Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January 2016.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said Thursday it will provide the North with humanitarian aid worth $8 million, which is the first such action under the new administration.

Since its fourth nuclear test a month later, North Korea has conducted two more nuclear tests and flight-tested a slew of new missile systems, including developmental ICBMs that could potentially reach deep into the US mainland when perfected. Another $4.5 million will go through the UN's World Food Program to purchase nutrition-rich food supplies for North Korean hospitals and day care facilities, targeted at mothers and infants.

The unification ministry, however, said in a statement that the actual provision of the funds would be implemented after considering overall situations including the inter-Korean relations.

Seoul and Washington have been united in calling for pressure on the North through sanctions, although conservatives often see the provision of aid as undermining such punitive measures.

The ministry said the timing of the shipments would be announced at a later date.

Unicef's regional director for East Asia and the Pacific, Karin Hulshof, said North Korean children faced problems that were "all too real". It is believed that 28% of children in North Korea have chronic malnutrition.

South Korea's decision to mull over fresh aid to the North has also caused a rift of concern in neighbouring Japan and the US, according to government officials, leading Japan Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe to bring up the issue during a phone call with Moon last week.

The previous government suspended humanitarian aid to its northern neighbour following the North Korea's fourth nuclear detonation in January past year.

The decision to resume aid is unpopular among many South Koreans. Realmeter, a South Korean polling organisation, said the measure had dented Moon's popularity, although his approval rating is still high at just over 65%.

Moon, Abe and Donald Trump are due to discuss the North Korean crisis on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly later on Thursday.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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