South Korea sends first aid to North Korea in nearly three years
South Korea sent 5,000 tons of aid to North Korea, a step away from recent confrontational rhetoric. But it's a tiny fraction of the 500,000 sent annually under the Sunshine Policy.
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What about the North's nuclear weapons program?
While the vessels were waiting to depart, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency issued an unusually strong statement that appeared to rule out any chance of the North’s relinquishing its nuclear weapons program.Skip to next paragraph
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Calling the program “a treasured sword,” the commentary said the North had to have “access to nuclear deterrent legitimately to protect the sovereignty and security of the country.” It was for that reason, it said, that North Korea had withdrawn from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty seven years ago.
The commentary was seen here as a possible prelude to a third nuclear test. The US has warned North Korea against conducting another test after spy satellites saw signs of intense activity around the North’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 90 miles north of Pyongyang. North Korea exploded nuclear devices underground in October 2006 and again in May 2009 and is believed to have the makings of a dozen nuclear warheads.
Signs of reconciliation?
There have, however, also been signs of reconciliation.
North Korea has expressed willingness to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program, last held in Beijing in December 2008. “North Korea needs honorable relations with the South,” says Mr. Paik.
In another sign of a desire on both sides to ease tensions, South Korean defense officials said Monday there would be no more naval exercises involving the US aircraft carrier the George Washington this year. The carrier has not entered the Yellow Sea since the South Korean navy corvette the Cheonan was torpedoed in March with a loss of 46 sailors.
US and South Korean exercises have evoked harsh rhetoric from North Korea as well as complaints from China, the North’s close ally and benefactor from the outset of the Korean War. A Chinese military delegation visited North Korea over the weekend, marking the 60th anniversary of China’s entry in the war in which China’s “volunteers” in late 1950 drove US and South Korean forces from the North.
North Korean vice marshal Ri Yong-ho harked back to that period as he spoke of the North’s friendship with China, “sealed in blood,” as reported by the Korean Central News Agency, in “a heroic war of resistance against the US imperialist aggressors, the common enemy.”