U.S. Senate gets tough on food aid to North

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U.S. Senate gets tough on food aid to North

The United States Senate on Thursday approved a farm bill that bans food assistance to North Korea without a presidential waiver, taking a tougher stance on the Communist regime following its recent missile test.

The amendment was proposed jointly by the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee chairman, John Kerry of Massachusetts, and ranking Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana and was passed 59 to 40.

The revision prohibits North Korea from receiving humanitarian food aid based on the Food for Peace Act unless the president grants a national interest waiver.

The Food for Peace Act is a program in which the U.S. administration provides direct donations of agricultural commodities to countries, including the North, that are in urgent need of food.

Authority is given to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is under the U.S. State Department, to provide donations through non-profit organizations and the World Food Program.

With the amendment, however, North Korea in principle will no longer be able to receive food assistance from the United States without a waiver.

There was also a bill proposed by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana to prohibit all food aid to North Korea, but it failed 43 to 56.

“A sweeping prohibition would not allow for the U.S. to provide humanitarian relief in the event of North Korean political reforms similar to those in Myanmar,” Senator Kerry said.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for approval. The current five-year farm bill expires in September and the new bill will apply for another five years until 2017.

The Senate’s approval, however, will not affect South Korea’s stance on providing humanitarian food aid to the North, said an official from the Unification Ministry.

“We will maintain our stance on sending food for the vulnerable class in the North,” the official said.

The Voice of America reported yesterday that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) will conduct a monthlong comprehensive nutritional assessment of North Korean children under the age of five and their mothers in September in all provinces.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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