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“No More Rice Assistance but Continued Economic Cooperation: Violation of the ROK-US Agreement”

“No More Rice Assistance but Continued Economic Cooperation: Violation of the ROK-US Agreement”

Posted October. 17, 2006 07:07,   


“If we need to choose either from humanitarian assistance to North Korea or economic cooperation with it, doesn’t it make more sense to stop the latter and continue with the humanitarian assistance?”

Some U.S. experts on the Korean peninsula regard as unreasonable the South Korean government’s willingness to maintain its Mt. Geumgang tourism and the Gaesong Industrial Complex projects even while the North has fully initiated its nuclear experiment, yet had ceased humanitarian assistance consisting of rice and fertilizer after North Korea’s missile tests in July.

In particular, some even argue that the South Korean government’s choice of “stopping the rice assistance and continuing the economic cooperation” starkly runs counter to the South-North declaration which both parties announced during the 2003 summit talks.

On October 9, after the North’s announcement on its nuclear experiment, the South Korean government hinted at adjusting its engagement policy toward the North. However the Ministry of Unification finally made its position clear, saying, “We are not going to bring the economically cooperative projects to a halt.”

“Violating the ROK-U.S. Summit Talk Declaration”–

In May 2003, President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush announced the agreed statements of the two countries on humanitarian assistance and economic cooperation through their joint declaration after their first summit talks in the White House.

The statement clarified, “The humanitarian assistance toward the North is not to be politically aligned but to encourage mutual efforts to intensify transparency in providing the aid, while the economic cooperation between the two Koreas is to be determined considering the North’s nuclear development.”

This agreement is still valid for the basic principle of the ROK-U.S. in dealing with the North. In fact, the U.S. administration makes it clear as a principle “to continue the humanitarian assistance,” which should be separately dealt with by imposing strict sanctions on the North when necessary. However, the assistance has been stopped as the transparency issue has emerged regarding the rice assistance. That U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Alexander Vershbow demanded the South Korean government to stop the economic cooperation after the North’s nuclear experiment is also grounded in the agreement, according to some sources.

No Longer Any Cause or Profits –

The South Korean government, immediately after the North’s missile launch, said, “We are going to suspend our aid of 100,000 tons of fertilizers and 500,000 tons of rice to the North until we come up with solutions to its missile issues.” President Roh said during the summit talks with president Bush last month, “Refusing to provide rice and fertilizers is a form of sanctions, if you will.” It implies that the South Korean government has a blurry line between humanitarian assistance and sanctions in dealing with both.

Marcus Noland, an expert on the North Korean economy at the Institute for International Economics, argued on October 13 (local time) at the seminar of the Foreign Correspondents` Club of Washington regarding the South Korean government’s attitude to the North, “It is hypocritical for the South to stop the rice assistance accessible by the starving people and yet continue with the Mt. Geumgang tourism and the Gaesong Industrial Complex projects which are actually profiting the Kim Jong Il regime.”

Gordon Flake, executive director at the Mansfield Foundation, said in an interview with this paper, “The South needs to give a clear message to the North by ceasing the Gaesong Industrial Complex project. It has to do so firmly as early as possible. If it does so reluctantly after several months as it is pressured by the international community, it won’t be able to make Pyongyang’s attitude turn around.”

Admiral Michael McDevitt, director for Strategic Studies at the Center for Naval Analysis, also pointed out on October 13, “The Mt. Geumgang tourism and the Gaesong Industrial Complex projects have nothing to do with the lives of North Koreans as they merely provide cash to the North Korean leadership.”

A source in Washington who is well aware of the South’s assistance procedure to the North said on October 16, “If the South Korean government shows its firm gesture in abiding by the principle in the economic cooperation with the North, the international community would not criticize it even if it resumes the humanitarian assistance in times of emergencies,” adding, “Because the South considered the economic cooperation in a political sense, the humanitarian assistance to feasibly help the North Korean people has been hurt.”