N Korea welcomes US food shipments

Aid groups say soaring global food prices are pushing the country close to famine.

    The United States will supply aid via the World Food Programme and other groups [GALLO/GETTY]

    In a statement, it said 500,000 tonnes of emergency food aid will be provided over a 12-month period under a new deal with Pyongyang.
     
    Previous aid shipments were suspended in 2006 over concern the aid was not reaching the right people.
     
    Aid groups say soaring global food prices and reluctance by donors have helped to push North Korea close to famine.
     
    Food shortfall
     
    Washington will supply 400,000 tonnes of food aid via the UN World Food Programme (WFP), while US non-governmental organisations will distribute 100,000 tonnes, the statement said.
     
    The cost of the deal will depend on shipping costs and commodity prices at the time food is distributed, US officials have said.
     
    USAID said experts will hold a meeting in Pyongyang in the near future to work out operational matters.
     
    "Pending a successful outcome of those discussions, the United States will deliver a first shipment in June, in light of the urgency of North Korea's food shortfall," it said.
     
    The aid comes as Washington is putting more pressure on North Korea to come up with a declaration of its nuclear activities.
     
    Multilateral deal
     
    The declaration is part of a broader multilateral deal aimed at getting Pyongyang to abandon all of its nuclear programmes in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives.
     
    A senior US official said the aid was not related in any way to the nuclear issue.
     
    The United States was a major provider of food aid to North Korea from 1995 until 2005.
     
    The US suspended the assistance after Pyongyang asked representatives of the WFP, which was channeling the aid, to leave.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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