Sunday, September 24, 2006

Seoul sets condition for resumption of aid to North Korea

South Korea's Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said his country would resume humanitarian assistance for North Korea as soon as it returns to international negotiations over its nuclear ambitions. This is the first time the minister has explicitly offered to resume the assistance in return for Pyongyang's return to the stalled talks.

Seoul suspended shipments of its regular humanitarian aid, which included rice and fertilizer, to the North shortly after the communist state test-fired seven ballistic missiles in early July.

Pyongyang has been refusing to return to the nuclear talks, also attended by South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States, since November, citing what it claims to be U.S. hostility toward its regime.

Washington wants to maintain or increase pressure on the communist state so the North has no other option but to return to the negotiating table, while Seoul wishes to lure it back to the talks through carrots.

"The United States cannot feel the same about North Korea as South Korea does because South Korea faces 1.1 million North Korean troops only 40 kilometers (from its capital) while the United States is thousands of kilometers away," Lee said.

[Yonhap News]

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