Telegram - North Korea has received more than £4 million in foreign aid from the UK in just six years despite the country’s status as an international pariah, according to reports.
Tensions with the communist regime ruled by dictator Kim Jong-un have escalated after it said it would conduct weekly missile tests and warned that "all-out war” would result from US military action.
Meanwhile, Mike Pence, the US vice-president, told Pyongyang not to test Donald Trump’s resolve as fears of a military conflict continue to grow over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
But despite the country’s status as a rogue state official statistics cited by the Daily Mail show that £740,000 was sent to North Korea by the UK to fund aid projects in 2015 with the Foreign Office reportedly committed to continuing the handouts.
The UK sent £32,000 of aid to North Korea in 2009 but spending increased under the coalition government, peaking at just over £1 million in 2013.
The cash has reportedly been spent on things like providing English lessons for regime officials and physiotherapy equipment.
The Foreign Office told the Daily Mail that aid spending is not given directly to the North Korean regime and argued that the cash can be used to improve relations.
A spokesman said: "The projects we carry out in North Korea are part of our policy of critical engagement, and are used to promote British values and demonstrate to the North Korean people that engaging with the UK and the outside world is an opportunity rather than a threat.”
But the prospect of taxpayers’ money being handed over to a country which has threatened war on the West has sparked fury.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a Tory former defence minister, said the aid handouts are "completely absurd”.
He said: "There are some very poor people there because of the regime's actions, but the country is a communist basket case.
"They are trying to build a nuclear missile to hit the United States, they are destabilising the entire region. Why on earth are we giving them aid?”
The money given to North Korea forms part of the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid.
The latest revelations about money being given to North Korea are likely to reignite calls for the GDP rule to be scrapped.
Mr Pence is due to hold talks in Tokyo on Tuesday with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, to discuss tensions in the Korean peninsula.
Mr Pence said on Monday that US action in Syria and Afghanistan showed the world the "strength and resolve” of Mr Trump.
But Kim In-ryong, North Korea's deputy UN ambassador, condemned the "gangster-like" US missile strikes in Syria, saying they were "disturbing global peace".