US to mull food aid for NK if it changes direction: White House
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A White House official said Wednesday that the U.S. will again consider food aid for North Korea if it stays away from provocations and averts a confrontational course.
"I think the precondition is that North Koreans have to demonstrate that they are going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a press conference for foreign reporters.
He pointed out that Washington has lost trust in the communist regime as it reneged on a bilateral deal by launching a long-range rocket in April.
The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 29, nicknamed the "Leap Day Deal," after high-level talks. It called for the North to suspend some of its nuclear activity and put a moratorium on missile launches.
In exchange, the U.S. promised to deliver 240,000 tons of food. Washington halted a related process after the North's rocket launch.
Rhodes said the U.S. is not convinced that food, if shipped, will reach ordinary people in need such as mothers, children and pregnant women.
He stressed that the U.S. remains open to bilateral and multilateral talks with the North.
But he expressed skepticism that Pyongyang will change its mode.
"We haven't seen that indication yet," he said. "Right now we not optimistic that there will be any imminent breakthrough that could lead to the provision of additional assistance."
On a trip to Northeast Asia, meanwhile, Washington's point man on Pyongyang also said food assistance is still a viable option depending on the North's attitude.
"I think as you all know the United States has been historically very generous when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance," Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters after meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.
The U.S. has provided more than 2.2 million metric tons of food, valued at over $850 million, to North Korea since the mid-1990s, he noted.
"And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans' ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance," he said.