SEOUL – North Korea has refused to accept food aid from South Korea unless it cancels a joint military drill with the United States that is scheduled to be held next month, an official in Seoul said Wednesday.
A spokesperson of the Ministry of Unification told EFE that North Korea’s decision on food assistance was announced in a meeting with representatives of the World Food Programme.
South Korea was intending to send through WFP 50,000 tons of rice to the North in September to address a lingering food shortage there due to bad harvests.
However, the North Korean regime has not made any official announcement, and South Korea is still trying to verify whether the decision was definitive.
South Korea and the US are set to carry out the joint Dong-Maeng military drill in August. North Korea believes such exercises are a rehearsal for invasion.
Although the allies have lowered the scale of their war games considerably following rapprochement efforts with North Korea, Pyongyang has been protesting against the drill.
North Korea has warned the US that the upcoming joint military exercises with the South would affect nuclear talks.
Washington and Pyongyang had announced that they would resume working-level dialog to come to a denuclearization agreement after a recent impromptu meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the inter-Korean border on June 30.
The proposed working-level meetings were expected this month. But as of now no such interaction has taken place.
The process to denuclearize North Korea is stalled since the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump that took place in February and ended abruptly without any joint statement.
In Hanoi, Pyongyang had pushed for a gradual denuclearization accompanied by the progressive lifting of sanctions.
But Washington maintained that it will only eliminate sanctions when North Korea ends and dismantles its nuclear program, missiles and chemical and biological weapons.