SEOUL, July 2 (Bernama) -- South Korea is in close cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP) to discuss sanctions exemptions with the United Sates (US) over its plan to send rice aid to North Korea, Yonhap news agency reported, quoting a South Korea’s unification ministry official Tuesday.
Last month, the unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs unveiled a plan to provide 50,000 tonnes of domestically harvested rice to North Korea through the WFP, which will handle its delivery and distribution there.
Details on how and when the assistance will be delivered are under discussion between South Korea and the WFP, and securing sanctions exemptions necessary for possible use of ships and other equipment to send rice to the North is one of key issues they should sort out.
"Rice itself is not subject to sanctions, but using ships to transport it could have to do with sanctions. The WFP is in consultation (with the US), and our government is also cooperating in the process," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Under multiple US sanctions on Pyongyang, vessels making a port call to North Korea face restrictions in entering harbours in the US and other countries.
South Korea aims to send the food assistance to the North before the lean season starts in September. The official said that Seoul aims to make the first shipment to the North within this month.
The government recently completed administrative procedures necessary to carry out the rice provision plan. It will set aside around 127 billion won (US$109.3 million) to secure rice from the local market, along with some US$12 million in additional funds to help the WFP's delivery and distribution efforts.
It marks the first time for South Korea to provide rice to North Korea since 2010, when it sent 5,000 tonnes to support its efforts to recover from flood damage. It will also be the first time Seoul has sent locally harvested rice to the North through an international agency.
Earlier this month, Seoul donated US$8 million to the WFP and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for their projects in North Korea to support the nutrition of children and pregnant women and address their health problems. The ministry is considering making an additional donation to such global agencies.