US to delay decision on food aid to North Korea

Kim Jong Il, North Korean leader. Photo by: Kremlin.ru

The international community is warily monitoring news from North Korea following reports of the death of its leader, Kim Jong Il. The United States, for one, is expected to postpone an expected announcement of food and nutritional assistance for the reclusive Asian country.

The North Korean leader passed away while on a field inspection trip outside the country’s capital city, Pyongyang, on Saturday (Dec. 17), according to the Associated Press. His death was announced Monday (Dec. 19) by North Korea’s state television, the news agency adds. It remains to be seen how his death would affect North Korea’s dealings with the international community. Kim’s possible successor is his son, Kim Jong Un.

The United States was initially expected to announce this week an aid package comprising 240,000 tons of vitamins and high-protein biscuits or the equivalent of 20,000 tons every month for one year. Senior U.S. officials said the announcement, along with other decisions concerning U.S. aid and nuclear talks, would most likely be delayed, the Associated Press says.

The news agency said the White House is monitoring the situation in North Korea and is in close contact with Japan and South Korea but did not give a detailed comment on the implications of Kim’s death on U.S. relations with North Korea. Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials who requested anonymity said they are not expecting any significant changes in the Asian country’s policy in the next few weeks, the Associated Press says.

The supposed aid package was negotiated during the latest meeting in China between U.S. officials led by Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea human rights, and officials of the Asian country led by Ri Gun, the Asian country’s director general for North American Affairs.

The U.S. stopped giving food aid to North Korea in 2009 after the latter said it no longer needed assistance and expelled U.S. humanitarian workers and aid groups. Recent events such as severe flooding and a harsh winter, however, has had North Korea approaching foreign governments for food assistance.

In May, the U.S. government conducted an expert assessment of the food situation in the Asian country. Based on the experts’ findings, the U.S. demanded better aid monitoring and evaluation measures if it is to resume its assistance program in the country.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.