US-Korean Food Aid Talks End With Progress, No Deal

Posted March 8th, 2012 at 6:00 am (UTC-5)
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Two days of talks have broken off in Beijing without a deal for the United States to send food aid to North Korea.

U.S. negotiator Robert King said Thursday the sides had made good progress on a deal to provide 240,000 tons of emergency food, and and that he would return to Washington to discuss the results.

“We're able to discuss the modalities of providing humanitarian nutrition assistance to the DPRK. We've had very productive, positive talks. We're on our way back to Washington where we'll report the results of our discussions tomorrow.''

Despite the progress, King said details of the relief package still have to be settled.

U.S. officials said ahead of the talks with North Korean officials that they would seek measures to guarantee that the aid goes to those most in need and is not diverted to high-ranking officials or the military.

Asked Thursday whether he was confident of receiving those guarantees, King said yes.

The United States announced plans to deliver the aid last week at the same time that Pyongyang agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program and missile tests.

U.S. food aid to the North has been suspended since Pyongyang expelled U.S. food monitors in 2009 amid concerns the food was being diverted to North Korea's military or political elite.

North Korea has suffered from widespread hunger due to floods and poor harvests. A major famine in the 1990s is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands, if not a million North Koreans.

Despite its political differences with North Korea, the United States has been the biggest single contributor of food aid to the communist state since the famine.