South President Moon Jae-in discussed with U.S. President Donald Trump on ways to keep North Korea from withdrawing denuclearization talks while resuming early negotiations in a telephone conversation on Tuesday evening. South Korean presidential Cheong Wa Dae reported that President Trump had said that South Korean humanitarian food aid would be a “very timely and positive measure."
However, the White House announced that both leaders had simply discussed ways to achieve “final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD).” As attested by the differing stance between the White House and Cheong Wa Dae, there are no definite plans regarding the approach, size and timing of food aid to North Korea. Therefore, it is questionable why Cheong Wa Dae made President Trump’s support public. Humanitarian food aid can be a necessary option when considering North Koreans’ difficult situation. According to a report announced by an international organization, some 40 percent of North Koreans, or 10.1 million people are suffering from food shortage. This can be used as a leverage to persuade North Korea, which has been refusing to talk, to return to the negotiation table.
However, it is questionable whether it is proper to officially announce food aid to the North right after it fires short distance missiles, because it may send the wrong signal. If North Korea receives food aid despite its military provocations, North Korea will undoubtedly consider this as victory of its actions. Indeed, North Korea had been able to obtain food aid from South Korea and the international society despite nuclear development and military actions.
Moreover, the South Korean government is quick to side with North Korea, claiming that its provocative actions cannot be considered as missiles and simply military exercise. If we extend food aid at this junction, it would be no different than offering our possessions after being slapped in the cheek. What kind of helplessness would this create for our people? Food aid to North Korea is needed, but it should not be hurried. There is a time for everything. It would be proper to confront North Korea of its wrongdoings and help the North for humanitarian aid afterwards.