State Department says U.S. to donate more food to North Korea

The U.S. government will be providing as much as 100,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea through the World Food Program in 2003, according to an announcement released by the State Department February 25.
The announcement notes that the Bush administration is prepared to help feed people in North Korea without regard to U.S. concerns about North Korea's policies. However, closer monitoring of food distribution is called for, the press statement says.

Following is the text of the statement:

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Press Statement
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Seoul, South Korea
February 25, 2003

U.S. Food Donation For North Korea

The Secretary of State announced today that the United States government will provide an initial donation of 40,000 metric tons of agricultural commodities and is prepared to contribute as much as 60,000 metric tons more of such aid to North Korea in response to the World Food Program's appeal for its 2003 emergency feeding operation. Our decision to provide 40,000 metric tons of food at this time is based on demonstrated need in North Korea, competing needs elsewhere, and donors ability to access all vulnerable groups and monitor distribution. Additional U.S. food aid contributions for North Korea in 2003 will be based on these same factors.

Funding for the initial donation will come from the U.S. Agency for International Development s PL-480 program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Section 416(b) program. This donation will bring total U.S. food aid to North Korea since 1995 to nearly 2.0 million metric tons, valued at approximately $650 million. The mix of commodities for this donation will be determined soon in consultation with the World Food Program.

As President Bush has said, we are prepared to help feed people in North Korea without regard to our concerns about North Korea's policies. With this contribution, the United States continues to be a significant donor of food assistance to North Korea. In 2002, our total contribution of 157,000 metric tons made us the World Food Program's largest donor to North Korea. That contribution comprised 26 percent of the 611,000 metric tons the World Food Program requested and more than half of the 303,000 metric tons it received.

This year, the United States will again contribute a generous share. At the same time, we have serious concerns about North Korea's restrictions on monitoring and on access to its people that impair the World Food Program's ability to ensure that our food assistance gets to those who need it. The United States calls on North Korea to adhere to the same standards of humanitarian access that apply to all recipients of international food assistance. We expressed our concerns about monitoring and access restrictions when we announced our donations in December 2001 and June 2002 and called upon that government to remove restrictions then, as we call upon North Korea once again to do now. We officially shared our concerns directly with the North Korean Mission to the United Nations in New York in August 2002. We regret that they have not responded.

We intend to work with the World Food Program to resolve our common concerns regarding monitoring and access in North Korea. We encourage other donor governments and non-governmental donors of humanitarian food assistance to support this effort.

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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)