North Korea/USA: NGOs call for aid resumption
|Publisher||Radio Free Asia|
|Publication Date||23 March 2012|
|Cite as||Radio Free Asia, North Korea/USA: NGOs call for aid resumption, 23 March 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f7c5a71c.html [accessed 1 February 2015]|
They say that a satellite launch should not derail U.S. plans to deliver food to North Korea.
This undated picture, released by the Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 5, 2009, shows a missile firing drill from an undisclosed location in North Korea. AFP
A group of five relief organizations on Friday called on the U.S. and North Korea to resolve their differences over a planned rocket launch and to honor a food aid agreement aimed at meeting what it called "urgent humanitarian needs" in the impoverished Asian nation.
The U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations – Christian Friends of Korea, Global Resource Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan's Purse, and World Vision – said they were concerned by the "possibly indefinite delay" of a U.S.-funded nutritional assistance program that was linked to nuclear concessions and a moratorium on missile tests by North Korea.
"Millions of hungry children and mothers in North Korea are caught in the crosshairs," said Mercy Corps Vice President of Operations Jim White, stressing that aid should not be used to leverage political gain.
"We appeal to both governments to put politics aside and work together to ensure that nutritional assistance gets to people in need."
North Korea announced last week that it would attempt to place a satellite into orbit in April aboard a rocket that experts believe could be used to carry warheads, prompting speculation that the launch is really a missile test. Such a test would constitute a violation of a U.N. ban.
A U.S. State department spokesperson responded to the announcement by saying that the launch would make it "hard to imagine" that Washington would proceed with the agreement for 240,000 tons of food aid delivered over the course of a year.
The spokesperson said that a satellite launch would amount to an "abrogation of the agreement" and call into question North Korea's commitment to effective monitoring of food distribution, which is intended to prevent aid from ending up in the hands of the military and regime elite.
According to the Feb. 29 agreement, the aid program would be implemented jointly by the five U.S. NGOs and the World Food Programme (WFP), and would target the nutritional needs of young children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and hospital patients.
The group of NGOs said that last year, during a food assessment in February and a flood relief trip in September, it had "repeatedly witnessed ... extensive food insecurity and malnutrition" amongst these vulnerable groups in North Korea.
Pyongyang is in desperate need of food ahead of mass celebrations for North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung's 100th birth anniversary on April 15 and to demonstrate continuity during a time of leadership change.
The official KCNA news agency reported Friday that North Korea will launch an earth observation satellite – the Kwangmyongsong-3 – atop an Unha-3 rocket between April 12 and 16 to coincide with the celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung.
A spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said North Korea would abide by international regulations governing the launch of satellites for "peaceful" scientific purposes and that an orbit was chosen to avoid showering debris on neighboring nations.
The surprise move is seen as an effort by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – Kim Il Sung's grandson – to solidify his position following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December.
North Korea claims that satellite launches do not qualify as violations of the February agreement with the U.S. and are merely part of a peaceful space exploration program.
The U.S., South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China, which had held talks with North Korea aimed at ending its illicit nuclear program, weighed in on Pyongyang's announcement, with most condemning the planned launch as a danger to stability in East Asia.
North Korea last attempted to launch a satellite in April 2009, also drawing global protests, but that exercise was widely seen as a failure, with the rocket having flown over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean without delivering its payload.
North Korea maintains that the satellite made it into space.
After the 2009 satellite launch attempt, Pyongyang declared that it would abandon six-party talks on offering the North aid and concessions in exchange for nuclear disarmament.
Weeks following that announcement, North Korea tested its second nuclear device in three years. The U.N. responded by leveling tougher sanctions against the regime.
Reported by Joshua Lipes.