July 25, 2019 12:51
North Korea has refused to accept 50,000 tons of food aid Seoul wants to send through the World Food Programme amid posturing over joint South Korea-U.S. military drills next month.
A Unification Ministry official here on Wednesday said North Korean Foreign Ministry officials told WFP staff in a meeting that they do not want the aid and cited the joint drills. "We're trying to find out from the WFP what the North's official position is," the official added.
Seoul has been somewhat overeager to provide the food aid in order to bring the North back to the negotiating table.
In May, Pyongyang with characteristic gracelessness called the South Korean donation "condescending" despite holding out a begging bowl to the UN in February. By refusing to engage with Seoul, Pyongyang ensures that its only negotiating channel is with the U.S.
On July 16, the North Korean Foreign Ministry threatened to boycott working-level denuclearization talks with the U.S. and break the moratorium on nuclear and missile tests because of the planned joint drills.
On Wednesday, the North duly lobbed two unidentified projectiles into the East Sea.
There is evidence that the North has little need of food aid since rice prices have fallen in open-air markets and crop yields have improved, suggesting that the regime was merely trying to save money for its weapons projects by begging for free food.
"The North harvests potatoes and barley around this time of the year, so it may not be as desperate now," Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University speculated. "It also seems that it received some food aid from China since Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Pyongyang last month."
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