Sun, May 06, 2012 - Page 4 News List

South Korea tells Pyongyang to pay up as ties worsen

AFP, SEOUL

South Korea reminded North Korea on Friday that it must soon start loan repayments for food aid shipped more than a decade ago, as Pyongyang reiterated threats against Seoul.

South Korea provided the North with some 2.6 million tonnes of food worth US$720 million in six instalments between 2000 and 2007, with repayments structured like a long-term cheap loan.

The first payment of US$5.83 million in principal and interest is due on June 7, said Kim Hyung-suk, spokesman for the unification ministry which handles cross-border affairs.

The South’s state Export-Import Bank sent a notice to its North Korean counterpart on Friday morning, Kim said.

The food aid was provided under low-interest loans while fertilizer aid worth 799.5 billion won (US$707 million) was given for free during the seven-year period, the ministry said.

South Korea also lent the North equipment and material worth US$140 million for railways and roads, and another US$88 million for developing light industry and natural resources.

The food and fertilizer aid ended after conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 and rolled back the previous liberal government’s “sunshine” policy of aid and engagement with the North.

The cash-strapped North is supposed to reply to the notice within 15 days. Cross-border relations are tense, with the communist state threatening “sacred war” against Lee’s government.

It accuses him of insulting remarks during Pyongyang’s commemoration last month of the 100th birthday of North Korean founding leader Kim Il-sung. Military dogs are being trained to chew up portraits of Lee’s “rat-like” group, the North’s official news agency said on Friday.

South Korean officials say the North is to blame for the jamming of GPS signals of civilian planes and ships but say the jamming is not a safety threat as other navigation devices can be used.

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