March 15, 2012 13:39
North Korea has apparently agreed to increase the number of independent monitors who will observe food aid distribution there, removing a major stumbling block to the resumption of aid to the repressive country.
The North apparently agreed during the latest meeting with U.S. officials in Beijing to increase the number of monitors to 70. Their task will be to check that the food reaches civilians who need it and is not diverted to the military. A diplomatic source in Seoul said the U.S. has decided to send monitors who are fluent in Korean to the North when it takes delivery of 20,000 tons of food aid per month over a year, as agreed.
Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, met on March 7 and 8 with An Myong-hun of the North Korean Foreign Ministry and agreed the terms, the source said.
North Korea accepted most U.S. demands, the source added. Washington apparently insisted that Pyongyang must accept U.S. requests to dispatch monitors to a particular regions at 24 hours' notice.
After the talks, King said he was "very satisfied" with the results. The U.S. will brief the World Food Programme in Rome on the outcome on Thursday. The WFP then handles the provision of food aid along with five other aid groups based in the U.S. The aid, which takes the form of nutritional supplements rather than rice, will go to North Korean children between the ages of five and seven as well as pregnant women.
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