U.S. could resume food aid to North

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U.S. could resume food aid to North

WASHINGTON - The United States would consider resuming food aid to North Korea if Pyongyang moves to lift a year-old refusal of humanitarian assistance, the State Department said Tuesday.

“There are profound needs for the North Korean population, and to the extent that North Korea wants to accept aid from the international community, including the United States, we will be willing to consider that,” department spokesman Philip Crowley said at a daily briefing.

In June 2008, Washington agreed to send 500,000 tons of food aid to North Korea, including 400,000 tons through the UN’s World Food Program and the remainder through other nongovernmental agencies.

In March last year, however, the hermit nation began refusing U.S. food aid, without offering a reason.

“If we [provide humanitarian assistance] in the future, just as we’ve done that in the past, our efforts will be to make sure that the aid actually goes to the North Korean people who need it most and is not diverted to other groups such as the military,” Crowley said.

North Korea’s food situation has worsened recently, forcing the regime to allow some markets to reopen this month in the face of skyrocketing food prices, the United Nations said in a report last week.

A famine prompted in part by natural disasters and economic mismanagement killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in the 1990s.

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