UK cash helps desperate Pyongyang

The British government has given half a million pounds of aid to Stalinist North Korea, and agreed to send English teaching experts to Pyongyang, in the latest sign of increasingly warm relations with its former Korean War enemy.

The pounds 495,000 cash donation was made a fortnight ago through the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC) on the eve of a historic visit to Pyongyang by a high level delegation of British diplomats. The four- day mission, lead by David Coates, head of the Foreign Office's Far Eastern and Pacific Department, was the first British mission to visit the North since the Korean Armistice in 1953 and comes at a time of increasing desperation for the Stalinist state.

North Korea is in the grip of a worsening food crisis, caused by a series of devastating floods coupled with the collapse of the country's collectivist economy. Officials of the Red Cross and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) who recently returned from the North said that people in the countryside have been reduced to eating grass, roots and the bark of trees to supplement rice rations, which have been reduced to 100 grams a day.

The UN will soon launch an appeal for more than $100m (pounds 60m) to tide the country over until the next harvest, but already children are showing signs of advanced malnutrition. "Millions of people are going to starve to death this summer if the international community does not get a lot of food to North Korea soon," said Catherine Bertini, executive director of the WFP in Tokyo yesterday.

The British visit comes just five months after a similar meeting in Warsaw last October, and appears to mark the latest stage in a discreet but concerted effort to bolster British involvement in a region hitherto dominated by Japan and the United States. Officials play down the significance of the talks, but several small but significant developments suggest that both sides are concerned to improve relations.

Mr Coates and his party discussed proposals for four-way peace talks involving the two Koreas, plus China and the United States. After a visit to the Pyongyang School of Foreign Languages, the delegation agreed to send written materials and a British Council adviser to improve teaching methods.

In cultivating Pyongyang, the Foreign Office runs the risk of alienating South Korea, which is fearful of being excluded from agreements between Pyongyang and third countries. According to British officials, the talks in Pyongyang had to wait until after a long-postponed meeting between the two Koreas and the US, which finally took place in New York last month. A Seoul newspaper, the Chung An Ilbo recently ran an article speculating that Britain would soon open a diplomatic bureau in Pyongyang, which the Foreign Office denies.

On the other hand, Britain lags behind several of its European competitors in contacts with the North. Pyongyang has a small mission in the London office of the International Maritime Organisation, but it is insignificant compared to a much larger delegation in Berlin, for instance. Germany also has its own diplomatic interests section in Pyongyang, as well as a full time trade official, sponsored by a group of big companies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee