South Korea agreed Sunday to send 400,000 tons of rice to impoverished North Korea despite the communist government's failure to meet a deadline to shut down its nuclear reactor.
The agreement was reached early Sunday after five days of economic aid talks in the North Korean capital. It was seen as a setback in South Korea's attempt to use food aid as leverage to pressure the North to honor its pledge to shut down the reactor under the Feb. 13 nuclear disarmament deal with the U.S. and its regional partners.
The first batch of rice will be sent in late May, the agreement said. The South will ship 350,000 tons, and the remaining 50,000 tons be driven over land, across the world's most heavily fortified border. There were no conditions attached to the aid delivery, according to the text of the agreement.
However, South Korea's chief delegate, Chin Dong-soo, later stressed that the rice shipments were contingent on whether North Korea makes a move to implement the disarmament deal.
Seoul, a key aid donor to the North, has sent more than two million tons of rice since the mid-1990s when natural disasters and mismanagement devastated North Korea's economy and led to a famine estimated to have killed some 2 million people.