NORTH KOREA SEEKS AID WHILE BUILDING NUKES
The North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop nuclear weapons and missiles at the same time the government is begging international aid groups to provide flood relief.
Jong Kwon, North Korea’s counselor at the U.N. mission in New York, last week sent an urgent email appeal for the aid — five days before Pyongyang set off its fifth underground nuclear test. Mr. Kwon wrote to several NGOs providing aid to North Korea on Sept. 5, explaining that heavy rains and subsequent floods hit two provinces in the northeastern part of the country.
Writing on behalf of Choe Son Hui, the new president of the Korea-America Private Exchange Society (KAPES), a Pyongyang front group that lobbies for foreign aid, Mr. Kwon stated that North Korea “would like to appeal to you all for an emergency support to the devastating flood damage area in [North Korea],” according to an email obtained by Inside the Ring.
The North Korean counselor said heavy rains destroyed 17,180 houses and left 44,000 people homeless. A total of 10 people died and 15 are missing.
“KAPES kindly requests you to find potentiality in your resources of supporting those people with whatever you can make,” Mr. Kwon said. “It has been known that the primary necessaries for them are food, shelter tent, blanket and medicine, etc.”
A second North Korean email told foreign groups that Pyongyang would allow monitoring of aid distribution — after the government diverted foreign aid intended for civilians to the North Korean military.
North Korea “will allow monitor[ing] of the distribution of assistance,” the email states. “In principle, it is necessary for all aid to go via Pyongyang,” the email says, adding that “entry through the Tumen River Bridge can be allowed as an exception.”
“That exception can be decided once KAPES is told what, when, and how much aid is going.”
The emails coincided with a rare public appeal for flood relief published Sunday in North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.
News reports from the region stated the floods are expected to cause more food shortages. South Korea’s Yonhap reported that North Korean food shortages will amount to some 600,000 tons less than is needed by the population.
Regime critics say North Korea’s appeal for humanitarian aid is duplicitous at a time when the Kim regime is accelerating its destabilizing nuclear and missile programs. The nuclear test carried out Sept. 9 was the fifth underground blast and the second this year.
Intelligence sources say the test results are still being analyzed, but early indications show the test is part of efforts to develop small warheads for North Korea’s missiles. North Korea also is developing a new submarine-launched ballistic missile that was tested earlier this year.
Recent activity at a site in the northeast part of the country also indicated further nuclear tests could be carried out. Analysts estimate North Korea has spent at least $1.5 billion on its nuclear infrastructure and weapons — money that could have been spent to alleviate the flood damage.
North Korea also continues extensive testing of ballistic missiles, conducting 13 flight tests involving 22 missiles in recent months, among them mediumrange Musudans and Nodongs.
Despite past policies of separating humanitarian aid efforts from North Korea’s nuclear programs, NGO sources operating in the China-North Korea border region say many organizations are having second thoughts about providing aid for the most recent floods. The groups are concerned the aid is bolstering a Kim regime that is ignoring the plight of its people.
Recent defectors from North Korea have warned that international aid is indirectly freeing up funds that are being spent on nuclear and missile programs. “What is the point of Kim Jong-un asking for international help?” said one former North Korean official. “Everyone knows that the relief materials will end up used for nuclear build-up.”
A U.N. human rights commission has accused North Korea of engaging in crimes against humanity for its treatment of dissidents.