The hunger games: North Korea to retaliate for lost food aid

An American politician once said: “A hungry man is not a free man.” This does not seem true for Pyongyang.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said Tuesday (April 17) it is abandoning its Leap Day agreement with the United States. The decision was in response to the United States’ suspension of 240,000 metric tons of food aid to Pyongyang and to the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of North Korea’s recent launch attempt, which earned the Asian nation additional sanctions.

North Korea agreed in February to suspend all nuclear-related activities in exchange for food aid. But its announcement of a satellite launch in March put the assistance in peril.

The United States, along with the international community, called on North Korea to discontinue the launch so as not to undermine the deal. But Pyongyang insisted it was only for scientific purposes and pushed through with the launch April 12.

The “rocket” failed to reach orbit — and so did the food assistance. The United States called Pyongyang’s action a “deal-breaker” and suspended its food aid plan. But North Korea’s latest statement turned the table on the United States, saying it was the Western power that first reneged on the deal, The New York Times reports.

Freeing itself from the agreement, North Korea said it has “become able to take necessary retaliatory measures.” Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Pyongyang is known for following up its launches with nuclear tests, as in 2006 and 2009.

North Korea said the United States “will be held accountable for all ensuing consequences.”

The food aid could have fed millions of people in North Korea, specifically women and children facing hunger and malnutrition in the reclusive Asian nation. But Pyongyang insisted its “sovereignty” is more important.

“Peace is very dear for us, but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us,” the statement said, as published on the state-run Korean Central News Agency and quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    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.