U.S.-SK Stand Back from EU Move

Washington and Seoul have both acknowledged the EU’s decision to restart food aid provision to North Korea, but insist that the decision will have no effect on their own stances.

The comments from the two countries come after the EU revealed on Monday that it has decided to launch a program to assist more than 600,000 vulnerable people in the north and east of North Korea with food worth a total of ?10 million, the first major move from any party towards significant provision of food aid.

“As it stands, we are not looking into government food aid,” a Ministry of Unification spokesperson told reporters in today’s daily briefing, adding, “We judge whether or not to provide food aid alongside consideration of inter-Korean relations as a whole, not just in terms of North Korea’s food security situation.”

The EU aid, she added, fits with the pattern of emergency humanitarian relief, saying, “We are under the impression that it is emergency relief targeting the vulnerable classes.”

In addition, the administration also reaffirmed that it is happy to look into and approve applications for both aid and visits to North Korea from private groups.

“Still now, applications for approval to send things to or visit North Korea are coming in from many different private groups, and we will approve those which are judged to be purely aid,” the spokesperson explained, adding, “In particular, we look into applications from many perspectives; are the items necessary for the vulnerable classes, are they items for which sufficiently transparent distribution can be guaranteed etc.”

Elsewhere, speaking in a daily briefing yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters, “We have noted the EU’s move, we have talked to the EU about its move, and we understand their decision. We have not made our own decision.”

“Obviously, we are in close touch with the EU on these issues, as we are in close touch on all of the issues that we work on around the world,” she added, but reaffirmed, “The U.S. will make its own decision when we get to that stage.”