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U.S. envoy on N. Korean human rights seeking visit to Pyongyang

All Headlines 17:06 May 12, 2011

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States point man on North Korean human rights is seeking a visit to the communist state this month amid ongoing food shortages there, a diplomatic source said Thursday.

The source, however, did not say whether Ambassador Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, has been granted access to Pyongyang or whether he would discuss the possibility of the U.S. resuming food aid if and when he travels there.

"King is pushing for a trip to see how serious the shortages are, but other details concerning the trip remain unclear," the source here said.

Neither King nor his predecessor, Jay Lefkowitz, has been allowed access to North Korea, although they frequently traveled to South Korea, China and other countries to write reports on the human rights abuses in the North.

Relief organizations have said that North Korea will need about 1 million tons of food from abroad to feed its 24 million people suffering from severe food shortages from last year's poor harvest and cold weather this winter.

U.S. food aid to the North was suspended in early 2009 amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests and controversy over the transparency of food distribution.

In a speech in Geneva in March, King urged Pyongyang to ensure that the international community's humanitarian assistance goes to the most vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women.


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