US to deliver 21,000 tonnes of food to North Korea

December 24th, 2008 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 24 (DPA) The US plans to deliver another 21,000 tonnes of food to North Korea in the near future, the US State Department has said.The food shipments are continuing despite the impasse in talks over dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme.

“Our humanitarian programme will continue,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday. “We want to try to make this work.”

McCormack said a fact-finding mission had just returned from the region. All told, the US is committed to delivering 500,000 tonnes of food under the plan. So far, about 143,000 tonnes have been delivered, he said.

The food is distributed through the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as some US nongovernmental organisations.

One of the issues that needs to be resolved is finding Korean-speaking individuals who can work with the WFP portion of the distribution, McCormack said.

“We want to make sure, as a government, that the American tax dollars that provide this humanitarian aid ultimately are being put to good use, and that means that the people on the ground who need that food aid are going to get it,” he said. “Part of that is making sure that we have a distribution system in which we have confidence.”

Earlier this month, the US cut off heavy fuel oil shipments to North Korea because Pyongyang refused to sign on to a verification process over dismantling its nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea in 2007 agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for economic and energy aid from the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, and for improved diplomatic ties with Washington.

But Pyongyang has refused to allow nuclear inspectors to take soil and waste samples from its nuclear facility in Yongbyon, a process that can determine how much plutonium for nuclear weapons was produced.

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