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U.S. says NK responsible for food security of its people

All Headlines 04:08 August 12, 2011

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- The North Korean regime holds "primary responsibility" for feeding its people in the long term, although the United States still may provide food aid to the communist Asian nation, the State Department said Thursday.

"The North Korean government bears primary responsibility for the state of food security in its own country and the horrible isolation its people live in as a result of its policies, which flout United Nations Security Council resolutions," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

The comments came after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly emphasized the important of strengthening food security systems in hunger-stricken countries.

The secretary was announcing an additional US$17 million in aid for fighting famine in Somalia and other nations in the Horn of Africa.

Clinton's spokeswoman reiterated calls for Pyongyang to become a responsible member of the international community to allow trade and an open system.

She said the U.S. government is still evaluating the findings of an assessment team on the North's reported food crisis.

"I am not aware that our internal analysis has concluded," she said.

In late May, Washington dispatched a team of inter-agency officials and experts to verify related U.N. agencies' reports, mainly based on the North's claim that one third of its 24 million residents require urgent food aid.

South Korean government officials said the North's food situation is not serious compared with previous years. Seoul claims the North's appeal for hand-outs is to amass rice to make "cakes" for next year's centenary of the birth of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung.

Nuland would not be drawn into a question on whether the U.S. agrees with South Korea's view.

She said the recent resumption of high-level dialogue with the North was to deliver a message that it should abide by its international nuclear obligations and improve relations its neighbors.

"I don't want to get into the sequence of who's going to do what, but we are certainly expecting North Korea to take steps to improve its relationship with South Korea," she said.

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