testimony given by Peter Lavoy, acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia
and Pacific Security Affairs before the House Armed Services Committee about
U.S. plans to not move forward with the 240,000 tons of North Korean food aid
it had promised during recent meetings in Beijing. This decision was made as a result of North
Korea's plans to launch a satellite into space, violating the moratorium they
recently agreed to.
said previously that linking a U.S. humanitarian assistance program to the
resumption of six party talks is a bad precedent. This type of action will lead
many to believe that this would be a U.S. attempt to bribe the North Koreans to
the table by taking advantage of a dire humanitarian situation.
by U.S. non-governmental organizations working in North Korea are again saying
that North Korean people are suffering from a severe shortfall in food
supplies. This is not a new scenario for
North Korea. The regime has continually struggled to feed its people since the
famine of the mid 1990s, when over one million people lost their lives.
more shocking is the effect the many years of living on less than 1,700
calories a day have had on the general population. I saw this first-hand in a
Pyongyang park in 2008 where some elderly people were quietly harvesting grass
so they could supplement a meal. Today,
a North Korean child can expect to be up to 7 inches shorter than his/her
South Korean counterpart and 20 pounds lighter by adulthood.
in the NGO community with access to remote areas of the country have confirmed
many in North Korea suffer from malnutrition and infection. In many cases,
people outside of the capital are on the brink of fatal starvation.
U.S. non-governmental aid agencies
urged the U.S. government not to delay the provision of food aid, stating that
"delay or potential cancellation of this program would violate
humanitarian principles which hold that lifesaving assistance should not be used
to achieve political aims." I couldn't agree more.
five organizations have been working in North Korea for years, have first
hand knowledge of the situation in-country, and have proved their ability to
work alongside the World Food Programme to assure food assistance reached those
most in need.
is Special Envoy Robert King in this scenario?
the administration allowed the Department of Defense to announce food
assistance has been halted?
It was Special
Envoy King and a
senior representative from USAID who were responsible for negotiating the
resumption of food assistance during the March meetings.
the question -- who is in charge of U.S. humanitarian policy in North Korea and
what is the Obama administration's overall strategy?
coherent strategy is articulated, questions will continue to be asked about the
philosophical and practical origins of this administration's approach to humanitarian
assistance and the need for North Korea to halt its nuclear agenda. These are, and should remain, separate
Gerald Bourke/WFP via Getty Images