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South Korea approves fertilizer aid to North in sign of thawing relations

The fertilizer will be transported by land in trucks along with vinyl, pipes and other equipment that could be used to build greenhouses in North Korea.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Park Geun-hye, president of South Korea, addressed the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City last September. Park has said Korean unification is a matter of historical inevitability and has relaxed some restrictions on North-South exchange. UPI /Monika Graff
Park Geun-hye, president of South Korea, addressed the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City last September. Park has said Korean unification is a matter of "historical inevitability" and has relaxed some restrictions on North-South exchange. UPI /Monika Graff | License Photo

SEOUL, April 27 (UPI) -- South Korea has approved the delivery of 15 tons of fertilizer and farming equipment to North Korea for the first time in five years since South Korean sanctions against Pyongyang forbade agricultural aid projects.

On Monday Seoul gave its seal of approval to a project Ace Gyeongnam Foundation had submitted after South Korean President Park Geun-hye and other officials signaled that restrictions would be relaxed in the spirit of South-North rapprochement proposed in 2014, reported Yonhap.

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In 2014 President Park said in her "Dresden Declaration" Korean unification was a matter of "historical inevitability" and since then has formed a committee on inter-Korea unification that was accepting projects toward peaceful exchange.

The fertilizer will be transported by land in trucks along with $186,350 worth of vinyl, pipes and other equipment that could be used to build greenhouses in North Korea, reported South Korean television network SBS.

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Analysts said Seoul's approach is a sign that North-South relations could thaw in the near term.

U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise Foal Eagle concluded last week, and an unnamed South Korean government official said Seoul is likely to approve a visit to North Korea by Lee Hee-ho, the widow of late President Kim Dae-jung in May.

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South Korea's approval of the fertilizer delivery is a significant turn since March 2014, when then Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said a similar proposal offered by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation was too premature.

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Seoul, however, has yet to approve large-scale aid projects that were ongoing until May 24, 2010, when then-President Lee Myung-bak declared economic sanctions against North Korea in response to a torpedo attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan that killed 46 seamen.

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