US diplomat says she’s concerned about North Korea food shortages linked to pandemic

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong gestures to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman
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U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed her concern on Friday over North Korea’s COVID-19 pandemic-linked food shortages following a meeting with South Korean officials, The Associated Press reported.

“We all feel for the people of the DPRK, who are indeed facing all the most difficult circumstances given the pandemic, and what it means as well for their food security,” the U.S.’s second-ranking diplomat told reporters in Seoul, according to AP. Sherman was referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We only hope for a better outcome for the people of the DPRK,” she said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has cited last year’s typhoon which impacted crops; the pandemic which led to closed borders between China and North Korea; and trade disruptions as primary reasons for why the country’s food situation has been “tense,” Reuters reported, though AP noted that no signs of mass starvation or social chaos have been reported yet by outside organizations.

Talks with North Korea over the country’s nuclear missile program have stalled, and Kim has said that unless the U.S. gets rid of its hostile program, likely alluding to U.S.-led sanctions, the country will continue to strengthen its nuclear weapons, AP noted.

In June, Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said that the country would not consider talks with the U.S. because “it would get us nowhere.”

“We are not considering even the possibility of any contact with the U.S., let alone having it, which would get us nowhere, only taking up precious time,” Ri said, Reuters reported, citing state media.

During Sherman’s meeting with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, they discussed ways to coax North Korea back into denuclearization talks. 

“We are looking forward to a reliable, predictable, constructive way forward with the DPRK,” Sherman said, according to the AP. “We have offered to sit and dialogue with the North Koreans, and we are waiting to hear from them.”

Sherman also said that she would discuss North Korea with China during her visit to the country on Sunday, AP reported. 

Tags COVID-19 denuclearization Kim Jong Un Korean Peninsula North Korea Pandemic South Korea
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