Chairman Kerry Urges Resumption Of Carefully Monitored Food Aid For North Korea

[Following a warning by the WFP on 24 March that six million North Koreans are in urgent need of food assistance, confirming results of a similar study by five respected U.S. non-governmental organizations conducted in February, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) issued this statement urging the resumption of carefully monitored United States food aid to North Korea.]

All of us harbor deep concerns about the character and recent conduct of the North Korean government. It is tempting to withhold food assistance until North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons or adopts economic reforms. But the North demonstrated during the famine in the mid-to-late 1990s, in which an estimated 5-10 percent of ordinary North Koreans died, that it is willing to allow its people to suffer enormously. As Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell recently testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ‘the choice really, is whether these people are allowed to starve.’

Our country has long and wisely separated humanitarian concerns from politics. Consistent with that tradition, if we have the ability to verify that food will reach the intended recipients, then we should resume food aid to prevent a major famine and ease the suffering of the North Korean people.

A rigorous monitoring program, modeled on the one implemented by the Bush Administration in 2008 through a consortium of U.S. NGOs,can give us high confidence that our aid is reaching the intended recipients. Food aid should be delivered only to targeted at-risk populations, such as infants, pregnant or nursing women, and the elderly. Shipments should be traceable from port, to county, to town, to distribution point. Korean-speaking U.S. citizens should be allowed random access to aid sites to oversee deliveries, and the packaging on the food should make clear to the recipients that the assistance reflects the generosity of the American people. These reasonable safeguards will help ensure the integrity of any aid initiative.”

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