Japan restates reluctance to give food to North Korea

Tokyo reiterated its reluctance to extend food aid to North Korea at a senior officials’ meeting May 7 among Japan, South Korea and the United States, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Japan explained that it has held back a decision to give food aid because of new allegations that North Korean agents abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s, the officials said. The U.S. has pledged to provide $25 million and South Korea $6 million in response to an appeal last month by the U.N. World Food Program to help ease North Korea’s food shortage.

The U.S. and South Korea did not urge Japan to ease its stance, although Washington is said to be indirectly asking Japan to provide the food. Delegates from the U.S. and South Korea said that they are not pessimistic about North Korea’s acceptance to participate in the so-called four-party peace talks to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry officials said.

Acceptance of the talks was expected last month but North Korea reportedly demanded massive food aid from the U.S. and South Korea as a condition to participate.