News

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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1998
Briefer: JAMES B. FOLEY

N. KOREA
15World Program Survey/Starvation of N. Korean People/Reports of Food Shortages/US to Denote 300 Metric Tons in Food Aid to the World Food Program 1998 Appeal
15Issue of Whether Food Aid is Being Diverted/Congressional Staff Report that Stated Food Aid is Clearly Saving Lives/Vast Majority is Put to Proper Use/1999 Agreement/Monitoring of Food Aid
15USG has not Detected Diversion of Food/Pictures of Starving Children and N. Koreas Decisions on How it Uses its Resources
15-16USG Not to Impose Political Criteria When it Comes to Helping Innocent People


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #136
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1998, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

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QUESTION: While you're still on Asia, another question about North Korea but not having to do with missiles -- there was a horrifying report in today's New York Times based on a World Food Program survey about malnutrition, starvation are endemic of North Korea, hitting particularly young children. In view of that apparently authoritative survey, do you have any doubts about the US food supply of being diverted, or do you have any plans to change the mode by which it is being distributed?

MR. FOLEY: Well, the full report is not out yet for our review, but drafts of the findings we've read certainly match other international agencies' assessments that food shortages persist in North Korea. It's based on these independent findings that the US determine to donate an additional 300,000 metric tons to the World Food Program's 1998 appeal. In light of the continuing humanitarian need, we urge other nations to contribute as well.

Now, in terms of our assessment about whether the food aid we provide is going to intended recipients and has not been diverted, I am happy to restate our position on that, which is not going to be news to you because we've said it before, but I'm happy to do so. In August of 1998, three congressional staffers released a report that they wrote after their visit that month to North Korea. They concluded that international food aid clearly saved lives. They stated that food assistance is feeding nearly every child under the age of seven. Most US Government assistance is directed to children 12 years and under.

One World Food Program high-level official recently stated, "I can guarantee that the vast majority of resources channeled through the WFP is put to proper use in North Korea." While monitor access and the tempo of operations are improving, we would, of course, like to see greater openness regarding the food situation. We would like to see the number of monitors increased and their freedom of access further expanded. We have made clear to the North Koreans the importance of this matter; in fact, the DPRK recently issued visas to additional World Food Program monitors and agreed to a 1999 PVO consortium program.

QUESTION: Well, my question is, in light of this survey, which appears to be much more authoritative than three congressional staffers running around, is the United States going to do anything differently?

MR. FOLEY: Well, under our arrangement with the World Food Program, monitoring the food assistance is required. No US aid is distributed if it cannot be monitored. The World Food Program and the US private volunteer organization consortium - this PVO I mentioned - monitor the distribution of US food aid in the DPK. No significant diversion of US Government assistance has been detected. So that really is our assessment, Jim.

With the recent announcement of an additional 300,000 metric tons of food contributed by the US, the number of monitors will increase. We continue to believe that the present monitoring situation, while considerably less than ideal, has allowed our assistance to reach those for whom it is intended.

QUESTION: What would you say about the leadership of a country that allowed its children to starve to death, as we saw in the pages of the newspapers today - skin and bones in classrooms, malnourished, mal-developed, brain abnormalities as a result of it. What would you say about a government that would allow that to go on while still maintaining a million-man army - a well-fed million-man army? And what about the $5 billion going to, perhaps, feeding its people instead of building nuclear reactors? What about them building suspect underground sites rather than feeding their people?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I really couldn't quarrel with anything that you just said, Sid. Your points reflect our views about the nature of that regime, about its dysfunctional economic system, about its choices on how to allocate its resources. We have profound and fundamental differences with this regime. At the same time, we have made it very clear as a policy decision and as a reflection of what we stand for as a people, that we're not going to impose political criteria when it comes to helping to feed innocent people who are victims of some of the facts and policies that you describe.

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