Sticky rice principlesThe government is having a hard time deciding whether to send rice to North Korea. At an inter-Korean economic cooperation meeting held in late April, it was planned to send the first rice shipment in late May but it is almost impossible to carry out this plan.
The government has not completed preparations because even the first steps of the agreement reached at the six-party talks on Feb. 13 have not been implemented.
Some 100 days have passed since the agreement was reached. But nobody knows when the first steps of the agreement will be implemented because of the delayed transfer of North Korea’s funds that are sitting in Banco Delta Asia. It is unknown when the funds issue will be resolved.
Song Min-soon, the foreign minister, said recently that it is too early to set up a time table for resolving the issues.
After the economic cooperation meeting, Chin Dong-su, the vice finance minister and top negotiator at the meeting, said clearly that the rice shipment will be sent in accordance with the implementation of the February agreement.
He said that the first shipment of rice was planned for late May, according to the agreement, but that the South Korean government had made it clear to North Korea that it would be difficult to follow through if North Korea has not begun to implement denuclearization measures. In these circumstances, it is hard for the South Korean government to send rice to North Korea.
But the South Korean government wants to avoid further problems, like an interruption of inter-Korean dialogue. It is very difficult for Seoul to decide what to do.
But we want to say this is not a hard decision to make.
As long as the government abides by some principles, there will be no problem.
Vice Minister Chin connected rice aid to the February agreement, so the government must stick to this principle. If the government pushes hard to provide rice to North Korea just because it desperately wants to have a summit meeting, Chin and the government will suffer great embarrassment. They will lose the people’s trust as well.
In the ministerial-level inter-Korean talks in March, the government first said it would not discuss rice aid but it later promised North Korea it would provide rice.
In this way, it cannot pursue an effective North Korea policy. We hope that the government will stick to some principles this time.