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S. Korea remains hopeful to send food aid to N. Korea before Sept.: official

All Headlines 11:22 August 20, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea remains hopeful of sending rice aid to North Korea before the end of September even though Pyongyang has given no response yet to Seoul's aid offer, a unification ministry official said Tuesday.

Seoul unveiled the plan to provide 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea in June through the World Food Programme to help the impoverished country address its worsening food shortages. Its original plan was to make the first shipment of the domestically harvested rice in July and complete the delivery by September.

North Korea is reportedly refusing to accept food assistance from South Korea, taking issue with Seoul's joint military exercise with the United States. The ministry has been trying to confirm the North's official stance ever since through the WFP that operates an office in Pyongyang.

"It takes around three weeks for the first shipment (of rice) to be ready for delivery," the ministry official told reporters. "Given that, it is not the time to say that it is too late to send (the rice) before the end of September.

"Our stance to provide help from the perspective of fraternity love and humanitarianism remains unchanged. We hope that consultations between the WFP and the North proceed in a responsible and swift manner," he added.

South Korea's decision to provide the food aid came amid a series of reports on the worsening food security situation in North Korea.

The North has criticized Seoul for conducting the joint military exercise with the U.S., which is to end later in the day. Pyongyang earlier said that it has no intention to talk with South Korea again and calling it a "senseless" hope to expect talks to resume when Seoul's joint military exercise with Washington is over.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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