July 22 (UPI) -- South Korea plans to push forward with food aid to North Korea amid what Pyongyang has said is a severe drought that has affected crops in the country.
Seoul's unification ministry said Monday it will continue to work with the World Food Program to donate 50,000 tons of rice to the North, deputy ministry spokesperson Kim Eun-han said Monday.
"At this point we continue to push ahead with the goal of sending the first shipment in July," the ministry said. "And we will do our best to ensure 50,000 tons of aid is shipped without setbacks, by September."
Seoul had originally planned for the first shipment to leave for North Korea by July. But the first shipment may be being delayed due to steps required to receive sanctions exemptions, Yonhap reported.
Last Thursday, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said on South Korean radio the shipment is being "slightly delayed," and that the government is doing its best to finish shipment by mid-September.
On Monday the unification ministry also did not confirm whether a preliminary match for the World Cup, between North and South Korea, could take place in the North.
North and South Korea have been assigned to the same Asian qualifying group ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The qualifying match could take place in the North.
North Korea has not engaged in provocations since the meeting between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump at Panmunjom in late June, but Pyongyang has warned nuclear talks are at risk because of joint exercises.
Harry Kazianis, a U.S. analyst with the Center for the National Interest, said this could be a "misunderstanding."
Kazianis said in an opinion piece on Fox News that U.S. and South Korean officials told him the suspension of exercises were not promised at Panmunjom.
North Korea has claimed Trump pledged to stop U.S.-South Korea drills during his most recent meeting with Kim.