South Korea To Give North Korea Rice

Thursday, April 5th 2007, 8:04 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea will offer North Korea rice aid even though Pyongyang may miss a deadline for shutting down its atomic reactor under an international disarmament agreement, a South Korean official said Thursday.

Top Asian officials voiced concerns earlier this week that the North was unlikely to meet the April 14 deadline because of glitches in the transfer of North Korean money in a Macau bank that had been frozen because of U.S. allegations of money laundering.

The South ``will give rice to the North as scheduled'' after economic talks between the two countries set for April 18-21 in Pyongyang, Vice Unification Minister Shin Eon-sang told reporters.

The North had requested 400,000 tons of rice from Seoul during high-level talks last month.

``The momentum for inter-Korean development should not be lost,'' Shin said.

Seoul, a key aid donor to the North, had put off discussing the humanitarian assistance until the economic talks, planned just days after the April 14 deadline for Pyongyang to shut off its main nuclear reactor.

The timing for the aid was believed to add additional pressure on North Korea to comply with an international disarmament agreement.

The North had pledged in February to shut down its sole operating nuclear reactor by mid-April in exchange for energy aid and other political concessions.

North Korea boycotted nuclear talks for more than a year due to its anger over Washington blacklisting a Macau bank where Pyongyang had about $25 million. During that year, the North also conducted its first-ever nuclear test, in October.

Pyongyang only agreed to return to six-nation arms talks after the U.S. said it would address the financial issue.

Washington said it would resolve the matter in 30 days after the North's Feb. 13 pledge to take initial steps toward disarming.