Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, commenting on potential food aid to North Korea, on Monday said, "We can't dish up rice to someone who shoots at us." Yu made the remark in a meeting with representatives of the Korean community in China.
He added North Korea "must admit its wrongful military provocations and assure us that they will never happen again."
The remarks appear to affirm the government's position that no large-scale food aid will be given to North Korea until it takes responsibility for the sinking of Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last year.
But Yu, who is seen as more dove-ish than his predecessor, added, "More flexible measures are needed to create an environment for dialogue free of unnecessary tensions. North Korea is the indispensable other half of the reunification process."