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N.Korea complains U.S., Japan hold up UN food aid
( 2003-09-16 09:22) (Agencies)

North Korea said on Monday the United States and Japan had put pressure on U.N. aid agencies to stop or delay food shipments to DPRK.

Fewer than 20 aid agencies -- nongovernmental groups and those of the United Nations -- operate in North Korea, where the economy is all but dead and many rely on handouts.

The official KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as referring to "the recent unprecedented situation in which the approval of regular assistance projects for the DPRK are being delayed or shelved by some U.N. organizations due to the obstructive moves of unsavory forces."

"This is attributable to the political attempt of the U.S., Japan and some other countries to use the U.N. organizations' assistance to the DPRK as a leverage," it said, referring to an international standoff with Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions. DPRK are the initials of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Paved with Good Intentions," a recently published book on aid to the North, says Pyongyang received more than $1 billion in aid between 1995 and 2001.

KCNA quoted the spokesman as saying the United States and Japan had made aid conditional on dealing with the nuclear crisis and the North's past abduction of Japanese citizens.

He also criticized the two countries for saying aid distribution was problematic in the North.

The State Department denied U.S. food aid was subject to political issues like North Korea's suspected nuclear arms program but a spokesman noted long-standing U.S. concerns about the ability to monitor such aid and ensure it gets to the needy.

"The United States provides food aid on an entirely humanitarian basis. It is not linked to political issues," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.

Ereli said the United States had already given most of the 40,000 tons through the World Food Program that it promised this year and was still weighing whether to give 60,000 tons more depending on North Korean need, other demands elsewhere and the ability to ensure the aid gets where it is needed.

"We remain concerned that North Korea has not allowed the World Food Program access to all vulnerable North Koreans and that it has restricted the World Food Program's ability to monitor the distribution of food aid," Ereli said.

Some aid agencies, such as British-based Oxfam, pulled out of North Korea because they could not monitor distribution and suspected at least some aid went to officials or the military.

"Lack of transparency concerning assistance peddled by the U.S. and Japan is nothing but a rigmarole intended to hinder the humanitarian aid to the DPRK and scuttle it," the spokesman was quoted as saying.

"The international organizations should reject any attempt to politicize the assistance and make it selective and observe the principle of impartiality vital to their activities," he said.

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