News / Asia

US, North Korea to Discuss New American Food Aid

US rights envoy Robert King (File Photo)
US rights envoy Robert King (File Photo)

U.S. and North Korean envoys meet in Beijing Thursday to discuss a possible resumption of U.S. food aid to the reclusive communist state. The talks will focus on guarantees, sought by the United States,  that U.S. assistance will go only to North Koreans truly in need. 

The State Department says a team led by Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will meet North Korean officials in Beijing on terms for the possible re-start of food aid to Pyongyang after a break of more than two and a half years.

Despite its political differences with North Korea, the United States has been the biggest single contributor of food aid to the communist state since its famine in the 1990’s.

But the program has been hampered by recurring reports of diversion of food donations to North Korea’s military or members of its political elite.

The most recent U.S. aid effort was suspended in early 2009 over North Korea’s resistance to allowing Korean-speaking monitors to observe food distribution.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said U.S. envoy King will probe whether North Korea is prepared to submit to more rigorous monitoring.

“Were we to decide to go forward with this, we would need to have much more strict and clear monitoring systems in place in order to move forward," said Nuland. "So that is ‘Topic A’ for the conversations between special envoy King and his DPKR interlocutors in Beijing, who will include Ambassador Ri Gun, the DPRK Director-General for North American Affairs.”

The American team includes U.S. Agency for International Development deputy assistant administrator Jon Brause, who held preliminary talks on the issue in North Korea last May.

U.S. spokeswoman Nuland referred repeatedly to possible U.S. “nutritional assistance” to North Korea as opposed to conventional food aid, such as the bulk commodities like rice and corn provided in the past.

“When you think about food, you think about sacks of rice, cans of food, things that might easily be diverted to the wrong purpose," said Nuland. "When you talk about nutritional assistance, it could be that. But it could also be things like vitamin supplements to populations in need like women and children. It could also be high-protein biscuits or other things that you would only need to use for populations in need and would not find themselves on some leader’s banquet table.”

Aid agencies say North Korea’s food situation is the worst in several years, with torrential rains and harsh winter weather early this year cutting harvests and prompting appeals for help from Pyongyang.

Spokeswoman Nuland said U.S. envoy King will return to Washington right after the Beijing talks to report to administration officials but did not say when a decision on new aid, if any, might be made.

She said the talks are totally separate from ongoing discussions about resuming Chinese-sponsored six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.

Newly-named U.S. envoy for North Korea Glyn Davies held talks with senior Chinese officials in Beijing Tuesday as part of a regional tour for consultations on the nuclear issue.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs