On the brink of starvation, North Korea is demanding food as a precondition to peace talks, according to a delegation of U.S. senators who returned here from the North Korean capital Saturday.
“We were led to believe that there was a rift and that the military was disturbed that the civilian authorities had not been able to obtain the food and obtain the fuel they’d been told they’d get,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
The United States has provided $18 million in food aid to North Korea and has said it will consider more humanitarian aid to stave off famine. But officials insist that the United States will not use food as bait to lure the Stalinist regime to the negotiating table.
The senators made clear to their North Korean hosts that “we are going to have a difficult time in our Congress obtaining support for money for the food if it’s looked at as a precondition to carrying out what they’ve already agreed to,” Stevens said.
The United States wants four-way talks with North and South Korea and China to hammer out a permanent peace treaty to replace the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953. North Korea has participated fitfully in informal talks about the possibility of such a summit.
International aid agencies say the North Koreans are weeks away from starvation.
The U.N. World Food Program reports that North Koreans are subsisting on a government ration of 3-1/2 ounces of rice a day - about one-fifth the adult calorie requirement.
Both North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan were “quite open in saying that if they were unable to get the food and supplies, they were not sure how the military would respond to their going to the four-party talks and trying to negotiate,” said Sen. Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M.
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