Seoul to continue humanitarian aid for Pyongyang despite rocket launch
Korea will keep providing humanitarian aid to North Korea despite international condemnation over Pyongyang's botched rocket launch, Seoul's point man on the North said Wednesday.
South Korea will "maintain humanitarian aid for vulnerable people through international organizations," Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said in a meeting with reporters.
Yu also said South Korea will allow private relief agencies to provide aid to the North, though he said Seoul will take necessary punitive steps along with its allies and the international community. He did not elaborate.
The move came as South Korea, the United States and other regional powers discuss ways to punish the communist country for carrying out a rocket launch in violation of a U.N. resolution.
North Korea launched a long-range rocket last week to put what it claims was a satellite into orbit, but it exploded soon after lift-off, with the pieces falling into the sea off South Korea's west coast.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a presidential statement on Monday condemning Pyongyang's rocket launch and calling on member states to find ways to tighten sanctions on the communist regime.
"We have no choice but to suspend our efforts that we have made so far to expand flexible steps" toward the North, Yu said.
South Korea has been seeking flexibility in its policies toward the North to try to improve their strained relations over the North's two deadly attacks on the South in 2010.
In December, South Korea announced the donation of US$5.65 million to the United Nations Children's Fund to help provide vaccines and other medical supplies as well as to treat malnourished children in the North.
There have been concerns that a third of all North Korean children under five are chronically malnourished and that many more children are at risk of slipping into acute stages of malnutrition unless targeted assistance is sustained.
Separately, South Korean civic groups donated nearly 3,000 tons of flour to North Korea last year to help ease its chronic food shortages.
Yu also renewed his demand that North Korea abandon its missile and nuclear weapons programs before joining the international community, and take steps to improve the livelihoods of ordinary North Koreans.
He said he would still leave open a "window of opportunity" for the North to change its provocative behavior and choose a path that is right and beneficial for the North.
"It is worrisome how long South Korea can maintain" the window of opportunity, Yu said, noting it will largely depend on how the North will act in the future. (Yonhap)