By HYUNG-JIN KIM , Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean civic group which offered to provide anti-malarial supplies to North Korea said Monday the North has rejected its proposal because of the South's support of new U.N. sanctions.
The rejection could complicate efforts by South Korea's new liberal President Moon Jae-in to expand civilian exchanges with North Korea as a way to improve strained bilateral ties. All major cooperation programs between the rivals remain stalled amid an international standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
In late May, Moon's government allowed the Seoul-based Korean Sharing Movement to contact North Korea. It was the South Korean government's first approval of cross-border civilian exchanges since January 2016.
The civic group subsequently exchanged emails with North Korea and proposed to deliver anti-malarial items such as insecticides, diagnostic kits and mosquito repellant to North Korea this week, according to group official Hong Sang-young.
But North Korea told his organization on Monday that it won't allow the visit because of U.N. sanctions against the North adopted last week that South Korea has vowed to implement, Hong said.
Despite the lack of South Korean assistance, North Korea has in recent years reported declining cases of malaria thanks largely to anti-malarial aid programs by international organizations. According to World Health Organization records, North Korea had 21,850 malaria cases in 2012 and 7,010 in 2015.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously last Friday to add 15 individuals and four entities linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs to a U.N. sanctions blacklist. It is unclear how much the new U.N. sanctions will hurt North Korea, which is already under multiple rounds of U.N. and other international sanctions.
Since Moon's May 10 inauguration, North Korea has test-fired three ballistic missiles in an apparent show of its resolve to expand its weapons arsenal to cope with what it calls U.S. hostility. Moon's government has said it will consider expanding civilian exchanges with North Korea, while sternly dealing with its missile and other weapons tests.
North Korea is pushing hard to build a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the continental United States.