North Korea Halts Nuclear Program for American Aid
The agreement, called “a modest first step in the right direction” by Secretary of State of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is not without clear conditions that North Korea must meet in order for 265,000 tons -- 20,000 tons per month for a year, according to a report in the New York Times -- of protein- and vitamin-rich supplements to be provided by the United States.
In the New York Times report, Secretary of State Clinton said:
“The United States, I will be quick to add, still has concerns. But on the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations.”
North Korea will be required to submit to inspections -- a stipulation of lasting contention between the two nations -- conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, a main nuclear facility 50 miles north of Pyongyang. The United States, responding to suspicions that earlier shipments of grains were delivered to wealthy North Koreans and the military, or secretly hoarded, rather than given to the millions suffering from malnutrition-related illnesses, has also insisted on stringent and comprehensive oversight of food distribution.
While the dialogue between countries has been largely applauded, the announcement by Secretary of State Clinton has also been met with criticism on American social media outlets, with users reacting against additional foreign aid given the number of Americans who live below the poverty line.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service show that:
- In 2010, 14.5 percent (17.2 million households) had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources.
- Children in 3.9 million households (9.8 percent) were food insecure at times during the year.
- 59 percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that they had participated in one or more Federal food and nutrition assistance programs.
North Korea has suffered a decades-long series of natural disasters, including recurrent flooding, famine, and disease outbreaks, that have contributed to devastating food shortages. Political fallout and broken market systems that are unable to meet the needs of the country’s people have made recovery nearly impossible.
The World Food Programme, the food arm of the United Nations that has kept a rare foot in the North Korea’s door, has accounted for 6 million North Koreans in dire need of aid, out of a current population of roughly 25 million. The percentage of the population in need of food assistance, nearly one quarter, is remarkably higher than that of the United States.
A 2006 work commissioned by Former Czech Republic President Vacláv Havel, Former Norweigen Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel titled 'Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea', concluded that the government of North Korea had utterly failed in protecting its citizens:
One quarter of the North Korean population is chronically malnourished and the average seven- year-old boy in North Korea weighs 20 pounds less and is 8 inches shorter than his South Korean counterpart. Even before the floods of 2006, North Korea lacked 20 percent of the minimum amount of food necessary to feed its 23 million hungry people.
North Koreans interviewed by aid groups have heard the promises of foreign aid and shipments of food. One man was quoted in the commissioned work as saying, “I haven’t even seen its shadow.” Providing that the aid agreement between the United States and North Korea moves past its initial stages, it could well be weeks or months before any amount of rations is seen in North Korea.
A U.S. State Department official expressed resolve for the long process ahead, telling the New York Times, "We can’t allow the same patterns of the past to repeat themselves. We can’t allow wasting arguments on topics that are irrelevant to the main challenges we face. And that’s simply going to take a long time to work out."
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