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North Korea Accuses US of Using Food Aid for Political Pressure - 2002-12-16


North Korea accuses Washington of using food aid to pressure Pyongyang about its nuclear program and says the United States attaches unreasonable conditions to food donations. North Korea's nuclear program and last week's announcement that it was reactivating frozen nuclear facilities have worsened relations with United States.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman accuses the United States and its allies of making food aid a political issue. In a statement carried by the North Korean Central News Agency, he said Washington was trying to wrest concessions from the North by linking aid to Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The spokesman said North Korea would reject future aid linked to what it described as "the U.S.'s sinister political aims."

Washington denies it is linking North Korea's nuclear program to humanitarian aid. Last month, the United States announced it would not send additional aid to the reclusive communist state and blamed budget pressures. It said future assistance would depend on Pyongyang's willingness to allow more monitoring of aid distribution efforts.

For the past seven years, due to a series of natural disasters and chronic economic mismanagement, North Korea has depended on outside help to feed its population of 22 million.

Some aid agencies, such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, have withdrawn from the communist state, saying they cannot guarantee that assistance is not being diverted to the military or to the political elite.

The revelations of North Korea's nuclear program have led to a sharp dip in food donations. In October, the United States reported that North Korea had admitted to developing a nuclear weapons program in violation of international agreements. Last week Pyongyang said it was re-activating an older nuclear operation frozen under a 1994 agreement with Washington.

The United States says the North must dismantle its nuclear program and has been harnessing international support to exert pressure on Pyongyang.

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