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Economy

Seoul weighs $8m in humanitarian assistance to Pyongyang

Aid should come 'without regard to political situation': Unification official

SEOUL -- South Korea is considering providing $8 million worth of humanitarian aid to the North via United Nations programs, a Ministry of Unification official revealed Thursday, the first such assistance package from President Moon Jae-in's administration.

Seoul reportedly would give $3.5 million to the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, aiming to help children and pregnant women receive vaccines, medicine and nutritional aid. The other $4.5 million would go to the U.N. World Food Program, according to the ministry official.

"The government's basic stance is that humanitarian aid should continue without regard to the political situation," the ministry member said.

A decision is due Sept. 21. Seoul last sent such aid in December 2015.

The official said the move should not be perceived as breaking step with international efforts to build pressure on Pyongyang, but noted that the timing of the package would be based on "consideration of South-North relations as a whole."

Seoul apparently notified Tokyo, Washington and others of its deliberations. Coming on the heels of new U.N. Security Council sanctions against the North, the news has caused a stir in South Korea as well.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Thursday he would refrain from commenting before Seoul made a formal announcement. But "we need to avoid actions that could weaken the pressure on North Korea when international society has united to demonstrate a clear will against" the rogue state, he said.

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