The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has asked South Korea to provide some 500,000 tons of fertilizer, a senior South Korean official at the Unification Ministry said Thursday.
At a press briefing, South Korean Vice Unification Minister Rhee Bong-jo said his government was considering all factors related to the provision, and hinted it is soon expected to meet the request.
The DPRK's request came in a Feb. 1 message to Han Wan-sang, the head of South Korea's National Red Cross, in which the DPRK requested that it first be provided with 150,000 tons of fertilizer starting at the end of February for its spring crops, according to Rhee.
South Korea has provided more than 1.9 million tons of fertilizer free-of-charge to the DPRK since 1999, according to the vice minister, who currently is acting head of the ministry since the resignation of former minister Chung Dong-young.
Unification Minister-designate Lee Jong-seok was expected to take office later this week following a two-day parliamentary confirmation hearing.
"Provision of fertilizer has taken place regularly since 1999, and it was provided from a humanitarian point of view," Rhee said at the briefing.
"The current situation makes it possible for people to suspect a number of possibilities, but the basic stance of the government is that it will not link fertilizer to other issues," Rhee said.
What Rhee said referred to the prolonged unsettled nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. Dispute between the DPRK and the United States over the latter's financial sanction that has hampered the reopening of the six-party talks aiming to resolve the nuclear issue.
The U.S. government accused the DPRK of various illicit activities, including counterfeiting, narcotics smuggling and trading in weapons of mass destruction.
Last September, the United States took sanctions against three DPRK companies which the former claimed were involved in such illicit activities.
The DPRK rejected the above accusation, calling on the U.S. to lift the sanctions before resuming six-party nuclear talks.
Since 2003, China, the DPRK, the United States, Russia, South Korea and Japan have held five rounds of meetings in Beijing.
The first stage of the fifth round of the talks was held in November 2005. Up to now, the concerning parties have not decided on the date of reopening the second phase of the fifth round talks.