Détente fever hits Seoul, but allies oppose resuming aid to North Korea

by WorldTribune Staff, January 23, 2018

South Korea’s proposal to resume humanitarian aid to North Korea was rebuffed by the United States, Japan and the UK, Japanese media reported on Jan. 23.

During a meeting of top diplomats from some 20 countries in Vancouver last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson voiced opposition to the move, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported, citing multiple Japanese government sources.

Hyon Song-Wol, the leader of North Korean all-girl group, inspected South Korean venues for planned performances by a North Korean art troupe. / Yonhap

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have eased in recent weeks with North Korea’s agreement to participate in next month’s Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.

However, North Korea-watchers in the United States, Seoul and Tokyo have warned that North Korea has demonstrated a long-established pattern of tactical shifts and charm offensives to gain concessions in agreements which the communist regime has consistently violated.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha proposed resuming humanitarian assistance to the North at the Vancouver meeting.

“It is not appropriate to comment on what was discussed during an undisclosed meeting,” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-Duk told a press briefing. “Minister Kang explained our basic stance related to humanitarian assistance to North Korea.”

South Korea in September 2017 had agreed to provide $8 million in humanitarian aid to the North through global agencies such as the World Food Program, but the aid was not delivered as tensions rose over the North’s continued missile and nuclear tests.

On Jan. 23, Yonhap reported that a team of 12 South Korean officials visited North Korea as part of the two Koreas’ exchanges of advance teams to prepare for joint celebrations of the Olympics.

The South’s inspection team surveyed facilities at Mount Kumgang and the Masikryong Ski Resort, an official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.

The report said the South’s team is looking at Masikryong Ski Resort to see if the slopes are apt for training alpine and cross-country skiers, two events where the North will compete in the Olympics.

A total of 22 North Korean athletes will compete in five events. Olympians from both the South and the North will also march together under one flag in the opening ceremony.

On Jan. 22, a North Korean advance team returned home after conducting a two-day field survey of potential performance venues for a North Korean art troupe’s shows in South Korea during the Olympics, Yonhap’s report said. The North Korean Samjiyon band will stage two performances each in Seoul and Gangneung, a sub-host city of the games.

Hyon Song-Wol, the leader of an all-female North Korean girl group, made a two-day visit to the South as the leader of an advance team inspecting venues for the planned performances.

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