December 15, 2011 in Nation/World

Talks today on food for North Koreans

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The United States will hold talks with North Korea in Beijing today on the possibility of providing food aid to the impoverished country, the State Department said.

The Obama administration has been deliberating on the issue for months. The United Nations and U.S. charities say aid is badly needed, but it remains a controversial issue. North Korea has plowed resources into a nuclear weapons program even as its people go hungry.

Special envoy for North Korean human rights issues Robert King and senior aid official Jon Brause will meet with North Korea’s director-general for North American affairs, Ri Gun.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday the two sides would primarily discuss the need for strict and clear monitoring should the U.S. decide to give aid – amid concerns food could be diverted to North Korea’s military and Workers’ Party elite.

Nuland termed the possible aid as “nutritional assistance” that as well as regular foodstuffs could include vitamin supplements and high-protein biscuits for malnourished people that would be unlikely to end up “on some leader’s banquet table.”

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