North Korea must abide by standards on food distribution: US official
The United States announced Tuesday it would resume suspended food assistance to impoverished North Korea.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, in Seoul for the inauguration of new South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, said the United States would contribute 40,000 tonnes of agricultural products to North Korea this year and was prepared to donate an additional 60,000 tonnes.
But in Washington, USAID chief Andrew Natsios cautioned that "substantial international assistance can only be provided over the long term when the donor community is convinced that the assistance is reaching the people for whom it is intended."
"There is a problem with transparency, accountability and the distribution system" in the eight-year food aid program to North Korea, Natsios told a Senate panel.
And although Natsios echoed the US administration's mantra that Washington would not use food aid as a political tool, he insisted it was time for donors, the World Food Program and the North Korean government to fix those problems.
"We will not use food aid as a weapon, but we need to make sure they don't use it as a weapon, either," he said.
Natsios was cautious when asked if North Korean President Kim Jong-Il would comply with demands that the international community have access to some three million people in 44 counties which so far have been off-limits, and randomly monitor food aid distributions.
"Predicting anything about North Korea is somewhat difficult, but I would say we have an even chance," he said.
World Food Program director James Morris said he hoped the United States' message to the North Korean government that normal monitoring standards are essential "will produce more movement."
The comments came the day after North Korea launched an anti-ship missile from a northeastern coastal area into the Sea of Japan.
US officials downplayed the incident, to avoid taking the bait from North Korea, which has repeatedly sought to raise the heat in its showdown with Washington over its nuclear program.
smb/ejp AFP 251905 GMT 02 03
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 02/25/2003 17:05:02
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