Planned satellite launch imperils US food aid to Pyongyang

North Korea’s planned satellite launch in April puts U.S. food aid to the country at risk. Photo by: Suday Envoy / CC BY

North Korea’s announcement on Friday (March 16) that it will carry out a satellite launch in April has put 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid to the reclusive Asian country at risk.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States does not link humanitarian aid with other policy issues. But the launch, if it pushes through, would “call into question” North Korea’s credibility and intention to honor its commitments. This includes ensuring the food the United States will be sending would go to the “needy folks” and not to the “regime elites.”

Nuland added the launch would create “tensions” and make implementation of any food agreement “quite difficult.” She said the United States made clear to North Korea on the Leap Day agreement that it would consider any satellite launch a “deal-breaker.”

If the launch proceeds, it will be in direct violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution 1874 requiring the country to stop any nuclear tests or launches using ballistic missile technology. It will also undermine the agreements made on Feb. 29, when North Korean officials agreed to suspend activities relating to its nuclear program.

Nuland said Washington is now in consultation with other bodies involved in the six-party talks in February. She said everyone — including China, the country’s major benefactor — agreed to discourage the nation from proceeding with the launch and urge the country to respect its international obligations. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Commission Vice President Catherine Ashton, meanwhile, have released separate statements calling on Pyongyang to “reconsider” its decision.

The launch is set to take place between April 12 and 16. It is said to mark the 100th bithday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and to boost the legitimacy of the country’s new ruler, Kim Jong Un, according to Reuters.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.