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Congress needs tough monitoring for NK food aid: Rep. Royce

All Headlines 05:37 June 26, 2012

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Senate's move to ban food assistance for North Korea without a presidential waiver overlooks a more important issue -- securing measures for fair and transparent distributions of food donations in the communist nation, a U.S. congressman said Monday.

"My concern is that the compromise reached in the Senate would not lead to effective monitoring of food aid, should U.S. food aid ever be resumed," Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) told Yonhap News Agency.

The Senate passed a farm bill last week that includes strict restrictions on giving North Korea food aid.

The five-year farm bill cuts agriculture subsidies and includes an amendment that the U.S. will provide Pyongyang with food aid under the Food for Peace Act only when the president issues a waiver in consideration of national interest.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) initially proposed an amendment to cut off U.S. food aid to North Korea, but Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass) and ranking Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana countered it with their own amendment to leave the door open for the shipment of food to the North.

It still makes it more difficult for the U.S. government to provide food to Pyongyang.

The House of Representatives has yet to reach an agreement on its own version of the farm bill.

"Congress recognizes that food aid to North Korea has often not helped those in greatest need. Instead, it has been diverted to support the North Korean military, and the human rights-abusing government," said Royce.

In 2011, Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, played a key role in revising agriculture appropriations to prohibits "international food aid to countries that do not provide adequate monitoring and which divert food for inappropriate purposes."

The U.S. has provided about $800 million in food aid to North Korea since 1996, he noted.

"As the legislative process moves forward, Congress should ensure that any possible future food aid to North Korea be monitored as effectively as possible,”he said.

The U.S. came close to resuming food aid for North Korea earlier this year. But it shelved the plan when Pyongyang fired a long-range rocket in April.



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