Food aid program aims to up Cuba ties

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Food aid program aims to up Cuba ties

Korea is set to start a food assistance project in Cuba in cooperation with the United Nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday, an apparent move to jump-start diplomatic relations with the Communist government.

According to the ministry, a Korean delegation led by Oh Young-ju, the ministry’s director-general for development and cooperation, signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Food Program (WPF) to push forward the food security project.

The signing took place on Tuesday, local time, in Rome, the ministry said.

Korea and the WFP will invest $3 million in Cuba by 2017 to raise food productivity and alleviate poverty in the country.

The Korean government will also offer food aid to the most vulnerable populations and provide support to help Cuba achieve an independent food supply.

Korea’s ties with the Caribbean nation have been severed since the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. While most all major countries worldwide have diplomatic relations with Cuba, Korea - along with the United States and Israel - has not normalized ties.

North Korea has maintained close relations with Cuba, however.

After Washington made a surprise announcement in December publicizing its decision to normalize relations with Havana, it was anticipated that Seoul would soon follow the suit.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said that Korea will make efforts to restore its diplomatic ties with Cuba, declaring it one of the ministry’s goals for this year.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the food assistance project was initiated by the WFP, a branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization that addresses food security issues.

It made an offer to Korea early last year. Since then, the two sides have consulted to materialize the project.

“We believe the development and cooperation project with Cuba through this international organization will largely improve relations between Korea and Cuba,” the ministry said. “Cuba has also expressed high anticipation for the project.”

The Korean government provided about $1 million worth of aid last year to the Cuban medical team who participated in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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