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U.S. Would Consider Request From North Korea For Food Aid, Envoy Says

“The United States would consider any new request from North Korea to resume food aid stalled since 2009, provided Pyongyang allowed U.S. staff inside the isolated country to monitor distribution,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Our policy in providing humanitarian assistance is based on conditions of need. … If there were a request for assistance it’s something I’m sure that we would look at,” U.S. Ambassador Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights, said during a meeting with journalists on Monday, the news agency notes. “U.S. officials would also need to be allowed into the country to make their own assessment, as well as to monitor distribution, he added, speaking amid heightened tensions with the North which has unleashed a series of bellicose threats in recent weeks,” AFP continues (4/22). The Wall Street Journal’s “Korea Real Time” blog reports a North Korean ambassador recently asked Mongolia’s president “to consider the possibility of delivering food aid to North Korea,” according to an account posted on the official website of the Mongolian head of state (Kwaak, 4/22). King “said he is aware of a news report that North Korea recently asked for food assistance from Mongolia, although he refused to confirm whether it is true,” Yonhap News Agency writes (Lee, 4/22).

“The United States last provided food aid to North Korea from late 2008 to March 2009 … until Pyongyang expelled U.S. workers monitoring the distribution,” AFP notes, adding, “The U.S. had been planning to resume the aid in April 2012 … [b]ut those plans fell apart, amid broken promises from North Korea to halt its missile launches.” However, “King insisted … the suspension of food aid was not related to a collapsed deal on reining in the North’s nuclear program,” AFP writes. Though recent reports have suggested the food situation in North Korea has eased, King said, “Reports from a lot of organizations that operate in North Korea say conditions are fairly difficult … the food situation is very tight,” according to the news agency (4/22).