U.S. officials have arrived in Beijing to meet with North Korean leaders about whether and how to resume food aid to the isolated and impoverished country, according to State Department officials.
Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, and the deputy assistant administrator of USAID, Jon Brause, are expected to hold talks Thursday with Ri Gun, North Korea’s director general of American affairs.
Those talks are expected to focus on monitoring measures that would ensure that any food aid would go to the North Korean public and not diverted to the military or ruling elite in the authoritarian government, according to a State Department official.
“Before any U.S. nutritional assistance program could be undertaken, the DPRK would need to address our serious concerns about monitoring and outstanding issues related to North Korea’s suspension of our previous food aid program,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak by name.
Food aid to Pyongyang stopped in 2009 following disagreements over monitoring measures, including whether Korean-speaking monitors could be granted visas into North Korea to oversee distribution.
Over the past year, North Korea has signaled a new eagerness to resume aid. In August, the United States said it would send Pyongyang emergency aid, not including food, for flood relief.
Recently, U.S. officials have used a new term to describe the provision of food aid to North Korea: “nutritional assistance.”
“I think the term ‘nutritional assistance’ is a little bit broader than food aid,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. “There are many different ways to help a country that is in need — including dietary supplements and other things — things that, in some cases, are easier to monitor.”