In a November 2017 interview with South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, Mark Field MP, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, said that the UK’s humanitarian aid programmes to the DPRK will be discontinued and resumed only if the North Korean leader changes his attitude.
“If Kim Jong-un starts to behave in a responsible and less reckless way in the international community, there will be opportunities for us to continue at some future point,” he said.
Withholding humanitarian aid in this way as a substitute for effective political and diplomatic action is a contravention of humanitarian principles.
It is a deeply troubling policy development that has received coverage in the international media but none in the UK so far.
Mark Field’s boss, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson has not repudiated this policy. Speaking recently at the Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on Korean Peninsula, Johnson adopted a similar tone saying that “we need to sharpen the choice for [Kim Jong-un] and for the people of North Korea.”
His declaration that the UK and its allies will need “resolve and fortitude” to help Kim Jong-un “make the right choice” demonstrates a lack of understanding of the impact of sanctions on the DPRK.
It is neither humane nor sensible to adopt a sanctions policy that only acts against the sick and other vulnerable people in the DPRK, not the regime and its ambitions to become a nuclear power.