At a consultative meeting on inter-Korean exchange and cooperation planning on Friday, the South Korean government decided to provide five million U.S. dollars to the maternal and child health support project for North Korea led by the World Health Organization. This is another decision to provide support to North Korea six months after South Korea’s remittance of 11.77 million dollars to the North as monitoring costs, etc. following its decision to provide 50,000 tons of rice to the North via the World Food Programme in June this year was rejected by North Korea and basically fell apart.
The South Korean government’s decision came about while North Korea is increasing the level of its provocations with the year-end deadline. Seoul explained that the maternal and child health support project is a purely humanitarian project and unrelated to the current inter-Korean situation, however, it is questionable whether it was an appropriate decision at a time like this. North Korea, which cut off the inter-Korea relations and harshly criticizes the South, may snort at South Korea’s gesture, rather than showing any gratefulness.
Choi Sun Hee, the North Korean Foreign Ministry's bureau chief for North America, on Thursday night criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s comment on the potential use of military power. “If it had been a mistake, we may let that go. If it had been a pre-planned provocation, we will also start tit-for-tat behavior,” said Choi. He used the phrase “senility of a dotard” again, which was used in 2017 in response to President Trump’s “Rocket Man” comment. In addition, North Korea is not hiding its intention for new provocations by setting up a large container at the Tongchang-ri missile test site.
North Korea is provoking other countries with intimidating comments and suspicious movements to build the grounds for further provocations in the future. The U.S. is putting its foot down to not get involved. President Trump seems to have decided to avoid direct response to such comments and simply ignore them while significantly strengthening surveillance against North Korea and remaining prepared for an emergency situation. The White House said on Thursday that it will not rush negotiations or reach agreement haphazardly, repeating a principled stance.
In such a delicate situation, the South Korea government decided to offer carrots to North Korea. To be clear, the humanitarian support to North Korean people should not be criticized. However, North Korea is currently engaging in a psychological warfare to evoke anger or fear in other countries. How would the North see South Korea’s response of providing more support? In addition, it should be questioned whether the decision was made in full consideration of the potential misunderstanding on the U.S. side.