South Korea said President Donald Trump supports the donation of food to North Korea through a UN agency, as the top US envoy noted the regime’s growing impatience with sputtering nuclear talks.
Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who has tried to serve as a bridge between the US president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — spoke about North Korea’s weekend weapons test and reviving nuclear talks
that broke down when Trump abruptly ended a summit with Kim in Hanoi in February. Since then, North Korea has raised tensions with threats and military provocations.
“The two heads of state exchanged opinions of the recently announced report on North Korea’s food situation from the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization, in which President Trump said that South Korea providing North Korea food supply is very well-timed, and expressed his support, calling it a positive measure,” Moon’s office said.
The White House said the two discussed recent developments with North Korea and “how to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearisation” of the country. Its brief statement didn’t mention the food aid.
North Korea battles chronic food shortages and has seen previous donations of humanitarian assistance from the US and South Korea as goodwill gestures. But government officials have been cautious with their largess, seeking to make sure aid goes to needy civilians and is not diverted to the state’s war machine.
The US’s special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, told a senior Japanese lawmaker at the start of a visit to Tokyo and Seoul that the weekend weapons test was a sign of impatience after the US rejected Kim’s demands to end sanctions choking his state’s economy, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.
Moon — seeking closer ties with Pyongyang — has been keen to revive economic projects with North Korea, but has been blocked by the international sanctions vice that was tightened after Kim tested nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2016 and 2017. South Korea cancelled a planned donation about two years ago due to the tests, but the US signalled a softening, when the State Department said it was looking at relaxing curbs on humanitarian aid.
The US and South Korea have played down the significance of the weekend test and have not confirmed the analysis of weapons experts who said the operation included the launch of a short-range ballistic missile, which would be in violation of international sanctions resolutions and complicate Trump’s and Moon’s negotiations with Pyongyang.