The House of Representatives on Wednesday moved to prohibit U.S. food assistance to North Korea, arguing that the aid would be used to keep the government from collapsing rather than to feed the country's populace, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, June 14).
The Republican-majority chamber included the food aid prohibition in a farm appropriations bill that still must be voted on by the Senate, which is led by the Democratic Party of President Obama. The White House has not said whether would allow provision of food to the Stalinist state, but it dispatched an envoy to the North in May to assess food scarcity there (see GSN, May 24).
Representative Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who drafted the prohibition measure, said it would be ill-advised to provide aid to North Korea while it continues its nuclear weapons development.
"Let's be clear, the aid we provide would prop up Kim Jong Il's regime, a brutal and dangerous dictatorship," Royce said.
He cited North Korean defector Kim Duk Hong's assertion that food assistance "is the same as providing funding for North Korea's nuclear program because it allows Kim Jong Il to divert resources."
Aid groups from the United States have suggested donating between 160,000 and 175,000 tons of food to the North -- roughly 50 percent of what Pyongyang has sought.
"I think it's a really bad precedent to deny humanitarian assistance to other countries out of principle," said Joy Portella, spokeswoman for the relief group Mercy Corps in Oregon.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) has favored providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea, so long as the distribution of the aid is tracked intently.
Certain U.S. and South Korean officials have shared worries that Pyongyang could be inflating the direness of the situation so it can stockpile food ahead of a long-planned commemoration of the 100th birthday of the Stalinist regime's first leader, Kim Il Sung (Shaun Tandon, Agence France-Presse/Google News, June 16).
Meanwhile, local news organizations reported on Friday the South Korean military had again fielded some U.S.-origin missiles closer to the North Korean border, the Associated Press reported.
The Army Tactical Missile System can deliver missiles as far as 100 miles, which would put the North Korean capital in range from their new location, according to information provided by military insiders to the Yonhap News Agency.
The surface-to-surface missiles were redeployed as part of a military buildup Seoul has pursued following the North's artillery attack in November of a South Korean border island.
The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported the South possess 220 of the missiles.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff opted not to affirm the veracity of the reports (Associated Press/Time, June 17).