March 02, 2011 07:38
The United States is considering resuming food aid to North Korea following reports that a severe food shortage could lead to malnutrition and starvation.
Special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth told the Senate Committee on Foreign relations Tuesday that North Korea has asked for U.S. food aid and that Washington is considering the request.
The U.S. government suspended food handouts to the impoverished Asian country in 2009, after Pyongyang expelled its aid monitors who were there to make sure the food gets to the children, nursing mothers and the elderly, who most needed it. The communist government is suspected of diverting foreign assistance to support its huge military force.
Five non-governmental U.S. charities, that recently visited the reclusive country say that harsh weather and floods in recent months have destroyed much of the crops, including grains and vegetables. They say the families worst hit by the shortages are those that depend on the public food distribution system.
There are concerns that resuming food aid to North Korea could be seen as rewarding its belligerent behavior, including a 2009 nuclear test and last year's attacks on South Korea.
The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, told lawmakers Tuesday that no decision has been made, but that sending food to starving people is a humanitarian, not a political issue. But Campbell and Bosworth said that any food sent to the isolated country would be monitored and its U.S. origin would be clearly marked.
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