Thursday, February 23, 2012

Will food aid sink US DPRK talks?

US has still to live up to its promise of us$900m in food aid to North Korea.
The sudden death of Kim Jong il in December 2011, provided the Obama administration with a handy excuse to reconsider its offer. The White House figured that with a new, younger, untested leader at the DPRK helm, well, you roll back the odometre to zero and begin all over again with North Korea.
The Obama administration cut off food aid to North Korea very early in 2008, at a time when it was most needed. North Korea has suffered the vagaries of Mother Nature who has blown very cold, sent unforgiving, heavy rains, and the like, that destroyed promising crop yields, which would go a long way to feed a population on the verge of starvation.
Contrary to noble words, the US has withheld food aid to NGOs, as a stick to beat over North Koreans heads, for political reasons the DPRK leadership find not only unacceptable but draconian. It is as though the Obama White House were saying, 'it's my way or the highway' or 'like it or lump it'. Well, Pyongyang took the highway. Which raises the matter of Washington's inflexible diplomacy towards North Korea.
The DPRK is a highly nationalist country. And any move to question its integrity is quickly challenged. Even though the US says that it is wanting to bring North Korea back to the six party talks in Beijing, its calculus is so calibrated that its demands are so fashioned for rejection.
Glyn Davies, the US co ordinator for North Korea, waxed hopeful that the talks now going on in Beijing between Washington and Pyongyang will lead to some happy outcome, the question of will the US honour its pledge of food aid remains.
The US has used slippery diplomatic language that there are wrinkles to be ironed out. The Obama administration has always raised the specter that any food aid would go first to feed the million man standing army, not the people who need it.
Contrary to claims, say, of Mercy Corp., an NGO conduit of food aid, that they have tracked in the past the funneling of food to the needy in the provinces from port to point of distribution, their words carry little weight in the diplomatic war the US is carrying out against the DPRK.
Other NGOs from Europe corroborate Mercy Corp.'s assertions, but to little avail.
Which raises the question: is president Obama willing to live up to its word on us$900m in food aid?

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