The United States has suspended plans to send food aid to North Korea because the insular, isolated East Asian state has broken the terms of a deal agreed last month by announcing a new rocket launch, a Pentagon official has said.
Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that next month’s planned launch “reflects [North Korea’s] lack of desire to follow through on their international commitments and so we’ve been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance.”
In light of the announcement, the US had “no confidence” that it was possible “to ensure that the food assistance goes to the starving people and not the regime elite,” he said, according to the Agence France Presse.
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Under a deal signed in February, Pyongyang agreed to a partial halt in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in exchange for US food aid, which has been frozen since 2009.
The US had previously cautioned that any missile launches by North Korea would jeopardize food assistance, but Wednesday’s comments marked a tougher stance and made it clear that plans to send 240,000 tonnes of aid – which was to go to children and pregnant women – had been scrapped, Al Jazeera reports.
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North Korea says the planned launch – which is scheduled to take place between April 12 to 16 – is only a satellite, and is being undertaken for scientific purposes. But the US and North Korea’s neighbours say the country is testing a long-ranging missile, thereby flouting last month’s deal, according to the BBC.
North Korea relies on foreign aid to feeds its people, having suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s.
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