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

Posted March 8th, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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A top U.S. envoy says ongoing talks with North Korea on deliveries of 240,000 metric tons of emergency American food aid are making progress, but says details remain to be settled.

U.S. negotiator Robert King spoke Thursday in Beijing, where negotiations opened earlier this week.

“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 (Friday).”

Ahead of the talks, U.S. envoys said they would seek agreement on measures guaranteeing the aid goes to those most in need and is not diverted to the North's political elite or its military.

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

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which is hosting the talks, voiced optimism Thursday that they will produce results that lead to the resumption of multi-national talks on Pyongyang's controversial nuclear program.

“We hope these bilateral meetings can achieve good progress. We hope both the U.S. and North Korea will work hard together so that the agreements from this third round of high-level talks will be implemented smoothly to create conditions to restart the six party talks.''

Washington 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 after U.S. officials voiced concerns about food distribution.

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.