Pyongyang asks U.S. to restore food aid: source

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Pyongyang asks U.S. to restore food aid: source


Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, in Seoul yesterday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

North Korean deputy ambassador to the UN, Han Sang-ryol, requested U.S. food aid last month through Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, a diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

Local analysts suspect that King, who is currently in Seoul, informed the South Korean government of the request and is discussing a joint response to it.

“Ambassador Han met King in New York on Jan. 14 and requested large-scale U.S. food aid for the North,” said the diplomatic source in Washington.

It is the first time in years that a behind-the-scenes diplomatic discussion between Pyongyang and Washington on aid has come to the surface. U.S. food aid to the North has been suspended since March 2009 after the Kim Jong-il regime rejected a U.S. proposal to increase the number of Korean-speaking food-distribution monitors to make sure aid was getting to the public.

Han told King that the North was willing to enhance international monitoring of food aid “as much as the U.S. wants,” the source said.

King, who came to Seoul on Sunday, started meetings with Seoul officials yesterday, including Wi Sung-lac, the top envoy on North Korean nuclear issues. At a brief media conference after the meeting with Wi, King did not elaborate on the purpose of his visit or his discussion with the South Korean envoy, saying only it was “very good, very serious and a very thoughtful discussion.”

When asked whether food assistance to the North was on the agenda, King said they “talked about a lot of issues.”

“[It is] extremely important for the U.S., as we pursue our policies toward North Korea, to coordinate with the government of South Korea,” King said. “We have a close working relationship, we are able to work together well on issues, we share our analysis, we share our ideas in terms of making progress.”

The official United States stance, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said earlier this month, is that it does not have a plan to resume food aid to the North for now.

“The U.S. does not think the North has met conditions to get U.S. food aid,” the source said.

And even if Washington decides to resume aid, it will take time because of congressional procedures, the source said. But some analysts see the possibility of change, citing some opinions in the U.S. State Department in favor of engaging the North with aid to sway its attitude on other issues, including denuclearization.

By Kim Jung-wook, Moon Gwang-lip []

Related Korean Article [중앙일보]

“감시 받겠다 식량 도와달라” 한성렬, 로버트 킹에게 요청

북한의 한성렬 주유엔대표부 차석대사가 지난달 로버트 킹(Robert King) 미 국무부 북한인권특사와 만나 대규모 식량 지원을 요청했다고 워싱턴의 한 외교 소식통이 전했다. 또 현재 한국을 방문 중인 킹 특사는 한국 외교통상부 당국자와 만나 북한 한 대사의 발언을 소개한 뒤 대응책을 협의한 것으로 알려졌다.

익명을 요구한 워싱턴 외교 소식통은 7일(현지시간) “한 대사가 지난 1월 14일 뉴욕에서 킹 특사를 만나 북한에 대한 대규모 식량 지원을 요청했다”고 밝혔다. 한 대사는 이 자리에서 식량 분배에 따른 모니터링(감시) 문제에 대해 “걱정하지 말라. 미국이 만족할 만한 수준으로 해결하겠다”고 말했다고 이 소식통은 덧붙였다. 미국의 대북 식량 지원은 북한이 한국어를 사용하는 모니터링 요원의 추가 배치를 거부해 2009년 3월 이래 중단된 상태다. …
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