North Korea Launch Highlights Trump’s Criticism of Seoul’s Appeasement

North Korea Launch Highlights Trump’s Criticism of Seoul’s Appeasement
People watch a television broadcast reporting the North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea on Sept. 15, 2017. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch came just one day after South Korea reaffirmed its intention to extend US$8 million in aid to the North, according to reports. Previously, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Seoul’s approach to North Korea as failed appeasement.

On Thursday, South Korea announced that it is still committed to the original plan of donating US$8 million worth of aid to North Korea, despite a string of recent military provocations from the Kim Jong-un regime in the north that have included the firing of a ballistic missile over Japan in August and a nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The aid is part of United Nations humanitarian programs that consist of $4.5 million meant for providing nutrition to North Korean hospitals and day care centers, and another $3.5 million to UN Children’s Fund projects for supplying vaccines and medicine.

Less than 24 hours after the announcement, North Korea fired yet another ballistic missile on Friday that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean, using a trajectory similar to the Sept. 3 missile launch.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who came into office in May, is widely noted to be a moderate when it comes to dealing with North Korean aggression. Even before North Korea’s latest missile launch on Friday, critics had already questioned the timing of Seoul’s announcement, as it came just days after the U.N. Security Council had imposed new sanctions on North Korea.

“The government has the basic stance that humanitarian assistance to infants and pregnant women in North Korea should be maintained regardless of political situations [sic],” said a South Korean government spokesperson as reported by Yonhap News Agency. Moon’s government has yet to walk back from Thursday’s announcement to continue the aid.

Critics of UN and South Korean aid programs to North Korea cite a multitude of evidence from the past that such aid rarely if ever reaches the hands of the common North Korean people the aid is intended to help. Instead, the totalitarian Kim regime almost always expropriates the aid to use for its own benefit—sometimes even using it to purchase weapons.

On Sept. 3, U.S. President Trump took to Twitter to express his displeasure with South Korea’s approach which he saw as merely “talk of appeasement.” The tweet was widely reported, with many U.S. media outlets and commentators criticizing it as having generated unnecessary friction between the United States and South Korea.

However, Japan also has problems with South Korea’s approach. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said on Thursday that providing aid for North Korea could undermine international efforts to pressure Pyongyang, according to the New York Times.

Before Moon came into office, South Korea’s previous conservative governments drastically curtailed humanitarian aid for North Korea for a number of years, arguing that the aid would only fuel the Kim regime’s military aggression and would do little good for the impoverished North Korean people.