Seoul offered ‘bold’ financial aid if North Korea agrees to denuclearize peninsula
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol marked the anniversary of the peninsula’s liberation from Japanese occupiers in 1945 by offering a massive package of economic aid to North Korea if the rival nation abandons its nuclear weapons program .
“The bold move I envision will significantly improve North Korea’s economy and the livelihoods of its people in stages if the North ceases development of its nuclear program and embarks on a genuine process of denuclearization.” , he added. Yoon said in his release day speech on Monday.
The package would include “large scale” food aid and funding to develop North Korea’s power generation and distribution infrastructure, as well as port and airport upgrade projects to facilitate trade, Yoon said. “We will also help improve North Korea’s agricultural production, provide assistance to upgrade its hospitals and medical infrastructure, and lead initiatives to enable international investment and financial support.”
Yoon stressed that the measures would improve the lives of North Korea’s 26 million people. Economic aid would be provided in phases as Pyongyang denuclearizes, and Seoul would advocate a gradual easing of international sanctions against North Korea.
The speech marked a change in tone from Yoon, who took office in May after pledging during his election campaign to take a tougher approach to relations with Pyongyang. He called on the United States to station tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea and promised voters he would take care “firmly” with “Unlawful and unreasonable behavior by North Korea”.
Yoon’s offer of help comes days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, accused South Korea of spreading Covid-19 to the North. “We have already considered various counter-action plans, but our counter-measure must be deadly retaliation,” she said in a televised speech Wednesday.
North Korea has stepped up missile testing this year, including the March launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and is reportedly set to conduct its first nuclear weapon test since September 2017. The media also suggested that North Korea may seek to retaliate to South Korea’s expanded joint military exercises with the United States, which are due to begin next week.
Yoon’s administration has prepared a roadmap for economic, security and political cooperation with North Korea, Deputy National Security Director Kim Tae-hyo told reporters after the president’s speech. The three-pronged initiative is more comprehensive than previous administrations’ reconciliation efforts, he said.
Seoul estimates that denuclearization would allow North Korea to increase GDP per capita to $3,000 per year from about 1.42 million won ($1,082) in 2021. Economic support measures would begin as soon as the process of initial negotiation, Kim said, and inspections would be needed to verify that North Korea’s nuclear program is frozen and then dismantled.
Yoon also extended an olive branch to Japan, calling for stronger ties with Tokyo by respecting the “spirit” of a 1988 joint declaration on overcoming past conflicts between countries. “In the past, we had to free ourselves from the political control imposed on us by Imperial Japan so that we could regain and defend our freedom,” he said. “Today, Japan is our partner as we face common threats that threaten the freedom of the world’s citizens.”