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U.S. concerned about reported drought in N. Korea

All Headlines 04:23 May 30, 2012

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, May 29 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Tuesday it continues to be concerned about the plight of North Koreans amid reports of severe drought in the impoverished communist nation.

Food aid, however, is out of the question unless Pyongyang shows seriousness about fair and transparent distribution, a State Department spokesperson said.

"The United States wants to assist the North Korean people, including by providing nutritional assistance, but we cannot do so when we no longer have confidence that the DPRK will follow through on its implementation commitments to ensure that nutritional assistance reaches those in need," the official told Yonhap News Agency on the customary condition of anonymity.

DPRK stands for the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The official was responding to an inquiry over whether a recent news report that some North Korean regions are stricken with grave drought may lead Washington to rethink food aid.

If true, it would apparently aggravate the food situation in a nation where many of the 24 million people suffer chronic food shortages.

The North has long depended on hand-outs from the international community.

Two of the major donors -- South Korea and the U.S. -- have suspended shipments of food, however, in response to the North's provocations.

As a result of high-level talks, the U.S. agreed in February to send 240,000 tons of "nutritional assistance," which excludes rice, to the North. In return, Pyongyang vowed to halt some of its nuclear activities and refrain from nuclear and missile testing.

But the North fired a long-range rocket in April in defiance of international warnings. The U.S. immediately shelved plans for food aid.

“The United States remains concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people and committed to achieving the goals set out in the 2005 Joint Statement," the official said. "By reneging on the commitments that were announced on Feb. 29, North Korea has demonstrated bad faith and has made it clear that it has chosen provocation over peace and isolation over integration into the international community.”



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