Humanitarian aid needed to solve N.Korea nuclear crisis

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/15 23:58:40

The death of Kim Jong-nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother, following Pyongyang's latest ballistic missile test has escalated tensions over North Korea's nuclear program. Yet when Western mainstream media place the two incidents under scrutiny and call on Beijing to tighten the screws on Pyongyang, they seldom mention one thing - under intense pressure, will it guarantee the basic needs of ordinary North Koreans?

In March 2016, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 2270 with support from China. The UNSC voted to further tighten sanctions on North Korea in November. But China stressed that sanctions are not the ultimate goal. Rather, creating a channel toward political resolution is. As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted, maintaining stability is the pressing priority, and that only negotiations can lead to a fundamental solution. That being said, providing humanitarian food assistance to North Korea is absolutely essential under the current circumstances.

North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported that the country was hit by its worst drought in a century in 2015. Following severe floods in late August and early September last year in the nation's northern provinces, an estimated 140,000 people were in urgent need of relief assistance. As a country that can only utilize about one-fifth of its land for farming, combined with frost, soil degradation and frequent natural calamities, North Korea has long been struggling with a food shortage. According to the World Food Program, "from a population of 24.6 million, approximately 70 percent (18 million) [of North Korean people] are food insecure and highly vulnerable to shortages in food production."

Humanitarian aid should not be neglected. In the meantime, promoting investigation and research, making sure that food and life supplies are actually provided to those who need is of equal importance. The five parties in the Six-Party Talks and the UN should work together to provide this.

China's commitment to helping achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula will not change. Nevertheless, Beijing also believes that reaching the goal should not be achieved at the expense of the North Korean people's basic needs. A lasting solution to the North Korean nuclear issue requires negotiations over deep-seated differences. Previous experiences have shown that sanctions alone will only incite Pyongyang to engage in countermeasures, which exacerbates the vicious cycle. Amid escalating tensions on the peninsula, restrained and rational steps, rather than mutual provocation, are the only choice to ease the strain.

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