U.S. says no decision yet on food aid for North Korea
Published : Feb 28, 2012 - 11:43
Updated : Feb 28, 2012 - 11:43
The United States said Monday that it has not made any decisions on further talks with North Korea or food aid for the communist nation despite “some moderate, modest progress” at their talks in Beijing last week.

“No decisions have been made on the six-party talks side or on the nutritional assistance side,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

She pointed out that Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, was still on his way back to Washington in the wake of two days of meetings with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.

“We did make some moderate, modest progress on the nuclear side and on the issue of DPRK-ROK relations, both of which are absolutely vital if the DPRK wants to get back into six-party talks,” she said. DPRK is the acronym for the North‘s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and ROK is that for the South.

Keen attention is being paid to whether and when the U.S. will resume what Washington calls is nutritional assistance for Pyongyang.

U.S. officials confirmed that the issue was discussed in the bilateral talks in Beijing, the first since the power transition in the North.

The U.S. insists that the food aid issue is being considered from a humanitarian view, not political.

Food, however, is apparently one of the most attractive incentives for the North to refrain from taking provocative actions and return to the multilateral nuclear negotiations.

Nuland hinted at progress in discussions on the terms of possible food provision, including how to monitor distribution.

Pyongyang has been widely suspected of diverting food to its military and other elites while many ordinary people go hungry.

“My understanding is that the conversations on this subject are also becoming more substantive and more constructive, but we‘re not yet at a point of being able to make decisions,” she said.

Upon his arrival, Davies is expected to brief Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his Beijing talks and consultations with South Korea, China and Japan.

After years of heightened tensions, highlighted by two deadly attacks on the South, Pyongyang is aggressively seeking dialogue.

But Pyongyang is largely bypassing Seoul in pursuit of direct talks with Washington. The North also appears to be interested in the resumption of the six-way talks, through which it obtained huge economic assistance. The six-way talks, also involving China, Russia and Japan, have been stalled for more than three years.

Nuland, meanwhile, dismissed the North’s threat against the South over its annual joint military exercises with the U.S.

The North publicly warned of a “holy war” to counter the Key Resolve maneuvers that started earlier Monday for a two-week run.

Around 200,000 South Korean troops and 2,900 American troops are taking part in the drills.

Separately, the two allies plan to hold the Foal Eagle joint military exercise from March 1 to April 30.

“We traditionally have this kind of rhetoric and bluster at the time of these exercises,” Nuland said. “So we wouldn‘t consider that terribly new.” (Yonhap News)