S. Korea and U.S. considering 'various ways' to resume stalled negotiations with N. Korea
Alexander Vale, May 21, 2019, 9:06 a.m.
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Tuesday that South Korea and the United States are considering "various ways" to resume the stalled denuclearization negotiations with North Korea.
Speaking at a press briefing, Kim also stressed the importance of humanitarian aid to the impoverished North regardless of politics, citing a famous quote by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan that "a hungry child knows no politics."
"The overall situation shows that we are facing a lull, but I think you should know that we are working in various ways to resume negotiations," Kim told reporters. "South Korea and the U.S. are also sharing the need for keeping the situation under control."
Kim did not elaborate on the "various ways" under consideration to resume talks with Pyongyang.
Denuclearization talks have been stalled since the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump ended without a deal in February as the two sides failed to find common ground over Pyongyang's denuclearization and Washington's sanctions relief.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier proposed holding an inter-Korean summit with Kim as part of efforts to break the logjam in cross-border relations and stalemated denuclearization negotiations. The North has been mum on the offer for about a month.
"Since it is important to resume negotiations from a broader perspective for our government, I would like to emphasize that we are also considering and collecting opinions internally on such issues," Kim said.
A high-ranking official suggested that Moon and Kim could meet in a setting similar to their second summit last May at the truce village of Panmunjom, which didn't involve much preparation for courtesy and formality.
"Given that the purpose of having a summit this time is to coordinate between the two Koreas so as to resume talks between North Korea and the U.S., I think it would be more desirable to have a summit focusing more on substance than on formality," he said, adding that in that case there will be no need for a special envoy or high-level talks to prepare such a meeting.
With regard to the plan to provide humanitarian food assistance to North Korea, the unification minister emphasized that politics should not play a part in helping people in need.
"Humanitarian assistance does not carry a meaning more or less than just that. It is an internationally accepted agreement that (humanitarian assistance) should be approached separately from politics," he said.
"In a nutshell, a hungry child knows no politics," he said, referring a popular slogan used in the U.S. during the 1980s among aid agencies that later became identified with the basic spirit of humanitarian assistance.
Last week, South Korea announced a plan to donate US$8 million to international agencies, including the World Food Programme, to help address malnutrition and health problems facing pregnant women and kids in the North.
The government also said that it will draw up plans to provide humanitarian food assistance to ease food shortages in North Korea, apparently aggravated by global sanctions and unfavorable weather conditions, despite North Korea's recent missile firings.
The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported that the country's crop output last year hit the lowest level since 2008, adding that an estimated 10 million people, or about 40 percent of its population, are in urgent need of food.
North Korea has yet to respond officially to Seoul's food assistance plan.