Trump backs S. Korea's food aid for N. Korea: Blue House

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Trump backs S. Korea's food aid for N. Korea: Blue House


South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump in file photos released by the Blue House. [YONHAP]

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support Tuesday for South Korea's possible humanitarian food assistance for North Korea in phone talks with President Moon Jae-in, the Blue House said.

During the 35-minute conversation, Moon briefed Trump on his government's position on North Korea's launch of "short-range projectiles," including a tactical guided weapon, over the weekend.

And they discussed ways to keep Pyongyang on the dialogue track despite the firing, the presidential office added.

They agreed that the allies' response to the North's firing via close coordination was "appropriate and very effective."

The White House said in a brief statement that the two leaders discussed "recent developments" regarding North Korea and "how to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization" of the North.

Moon noted Trump's tweet message that Kim "knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me."

The two leaders exchanged views as well on a joint report by the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization that 10 million people in the impoverished communist nation, 40 percent of the population, are in urgent need of food.

"President Trump assessed that South Korea's provision of food to North Korea in a humanitarian move will be very timely and a positive step and supports it," Moon’s spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said.

Speaking to reporters before a summit with Moon in Washington last month, Trump said the two were discussing "certain humanitarian things" although he wanted sanctions on Pyongyang to remain in place.

"I'm okay with that, to be honest," Trump said at the time. "I think you have to be okay with that. And South Korea is doing certain things to help out with food and various other things for North Korea."

He noted that the U.S.-North Korea relationship is "much different" than it was two years ago, when tensions soared over the regime's testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

In 2017 the South Korean government set aside US$8 million in humanitarian aid for North Korea, but the plan never materialized due to the sanctions on the North.

Moon has held three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and has been credited for brokering the two summits between Kim and Trump in June and February.

The South Korean president firmly believes that increasing economic and other exchanges between the two Koreas can help build trust and induce the North to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Meanwhile, the two leaders agreed to consult closely with each other on ways for the U.S. president to visit South Korea in the near future, according to Ko.

Trump plans to travel to Northeast Asia in late May and June.

It was their 21st round of phone talks, which came about four weeks after their White House summit.

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