US ‘Understands’ EU Decision to Provide Food Aid to North Korea

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 8:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States says it “understands” the European Union's decision to provide North Korea with food aid, but that it has not yet decided whether to resume its own food deliveries to the impoverished nation.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Tuesday the U.S. government has discussed the issue with the EU officials and understands their move. But she said Washington will make its own decision when it gets to that stage.

The European Commission said Monday it will give more than $14.5 million in food aid to North Korea to help feed some 650,000 people at risk of starving. The Commission said the food will be delivered under a strict monitoring system to those most vulnerable to malnutrition in the northern and eastern provinces of the country.

Pyongyang appealed for international food aid earlier this year, citing severe shortages.

The 27-nation European bloc sent a delegation to North Korea last month to assess the nation's food needs.

A delegation representing several private U.S. charities traveled to the country earlier this year on a similar mission.

U.S. officials have been calling for measures to ensure that the food gets to the needy, following allegations that previous aid was diverted to North Korea's military.

South Korea used to be the North's major food donor before President Lee Myung-bak came into office in early 2008 and linked such aid with North Korea's nuclear disarmament process. Some South Korean officials say that Pyongyang is exaggerating the hunger problem so it can stockpile food for a major national celebration next year.

The United Nations has said $210 million is needed to ensure North Koreans have enough to eat. It has estimated that 6 million people, or about a quarter of North Korea's population, are in urgent need of food aid.