SEOUL, Providing humanitarian aid to North Korea could be helpful in denuclearizing the communist nation, the presidential spokesman said Wednesday, possibly hinting at a resumption of assistance for the impoverished neighbor in the near future.

"(I) believe humanitarian aid is something we must do at any time and that humanitarian aid is another way to encourage denuclearization of North Korea on the other hand," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters.

The remarks came one day after the United Nations Security Council adopted a U.S.-drafted rule meant to provide an exemption from U.N. sanctions against the North for international aid groups operating in the communist state.

Seoul suspended its humanitarian assistance to the North under the U.N. Security Council sanctions, despite setting aside at least US$8 million at the start of the year for North Korean aid.

Soon after the U.N. Security Council approved the change to aid for North Korea, an official from Seoul's unification ministry said the country will seek to provide its assistance to the North at an "appropriate time."

Still, the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said he was unaware of any ongoing preparation to do so.

He earlier said Seoul was asking North Korea to speed up its denuclearization efforts while asking the United States to show its faith in their denuclearization agreement, partly by providing the rewards the North has been promised.

South Korea was recently accused of violating U.N. sanctions against the North as earlier reports suggested shipments of North Korean coal may have arrived in South Korea despite a U.N. Security Council resolution that prohibits any exports of North Korean coal.

The Cheong Wa Dae spokesman stressed that the U.S. trusts the South and has not raised any complaint.

"The U.S. not only made no claims over the issue, but it also issued a statement that it deeply trusts the South Korean government," Kim told a press briefing.

The suspected shipments of North Korean coal to South Korea are currently under investigation.

The foreign ministry earlier said those responsible, should there be any, will be punished if necessary.

Source: Yonhap News Agency