King and USAID to Head for Pyongyang Tomorrow

A U.S. delegation will arrive in Pyongyang tomorrow, aiming to establish the scale of genuine food insecurity in the country in advance of a decision on the resumption of U.S. food aid. It will be led by the U.S.’ Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights, Robert King, and John Brause of USAID.

Revealing the news on Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner explained, “They’ll conduct a field evaluation of food security needs and will also meet with DPRK Government officials.”

The four-day visit comes approximately two months after a World Food Programme report concluded that six million people were at risk of starvation in North Korea during the so-called ‘spring shortages’ and that 430,000 tons of food was urgently needed in the country.

Since the release of the report in March there has been a trickle of aid offered to North Korea, but nothing close to the scale of support historically provided by the U.S. and South Korea, North Korea’s two biggest aid partners.

The U.S. government team’s aim, according to Toner, will be to “go out into the field to look at various aspects to verify what they’ve already seen in the reports… conducted by the World Food Programme and other organizations, and then, obviously, to see if there are ways to set up monitoring systems to make sure that it reaches the proper end uses.”

Meanwhile, criticism of the WFP report continues, with the debate particularly severe in South Korea.

At an event on Friday, Professor Yoo Ho Yeol asserted, “The joint investigation team containing the WFP and others estimated North Korea’s total food production at an inappropriate time,” and suggested that its findings were distorted and unreliable.