China to resume food aid to North Korea

Posted on : 2013-05-16 17:29 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Beijing maintaining approach of token support of international sanctions while providing assistance to N. Korea

By Seong Yeon-cheol and Park Hyun, Beijing and Washington correspondents

Chinese authorities notified North Korea of plans to resume food aid before the Bank of China closed its account with North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), a diplomatic source in Beijing said. With China also supplying fertilizer aid, the situation suggests that while Seoul and Washington are both working to bring it on board with their pressure offensive against Pyongyang, Beijing is sticking to a dual approach using the carrot as well as the stick in its dealings with North Korea.

On May 15, the US network Radio Free Asia reported on China’s plans to soon add food aid on top of the large amounts of fertilizer it has recently been supplying to North Korea. Sources within North Korea were quoted as saying that the estimated 200,000 tons of fertilizer provided late last month was larger than last year, and delivered more quickly.

An official with the Hamgyeong provincial agricultural bureau said the amount of fertilizer distributed to collective farms suggested that the total amount supplied by the Chinese government was “probably more than 200,000 tons.”

A farmer in Yanggang province noted the speedy delivery.

“Last year, the fertilizer from China was given out some time around June 10, but this year it started on April 26,” the farmer said.

The farmer also commented on the increased amount, saying that “the fertilizer supply last year was so small than each collective farm only got around 10 tons.”

An official with the North Pyongan province trade bureau reported hearing that China would shortly begin providing food aid as well, saying authorities in Pyongyang had begun rationing out rice from its reserves in anticipation of the delivery.

China was also reported to have notified Pyongyang of its plans before the Bank of China announced the FTB account closure on May 7.

“China didn’t freeze or close the Foreign Trade Bank account all of a sudden,” a diplomatic source in Beijing said. “It let North Korea know it was going to close it and gave enough time to take action by withdrawing funds.”

Beijing’s actions are consistent with its typical approach to North Korea: appearing to cooperate with international sanctions against the North while still not deserting Pyongyang by going along with the intensive tactics of the US. Chinese authorities appear to be keeping in step with US pressure by giving orders to rigorously enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2094, which sanctions North Korea, and cutting off Bank of China’s transactions with North Korea.

“This is China’s diplomatic approach,” said a Chinese expert. “They want to leave some options for both North Korea and the US.”


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