Diplomatic and Military Affairs

EU delegation to visit DPRK to assess Pyongyang's food needs

Updated: 2011-05-30 07:54

(China Daily)

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SEOUL, Republic of Korea - A group of European Union officials will visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) next month to assess the food situation there after a similar trip by US officials, a report said on Sunday.

Officials from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection group will head to Pyongyang and stay for two weeks after the US team wraps up a probe into Pyongyang's food needs this week, Yonhap news agency said, citing a Seoul government source.

The EU officials will visit provincial areas to look into how serious the food shortages are there.

The US is expected to withhold its decision on aid to the DPRK until after the EU team comes up with an assessment report, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

"The international community for now is evaluating the food conditions and is not discussing in earnest resumption of food aid yet," Yonhap quoted the official as saying.

The US delegation, led by Robert King, Washington's special envoy on the DPRK's human rights, arrived in Pyongyang last Tuesday.

King said on Saturday that the Korean-American citizen detained in the DPRK on unspecified charges for six months has been released.

The envoy also said he had reached no agreement on food aid.

"We discussed a number of issues and we will report back to Washington on our meetings. We did not negotiate or agree to any provisional food assistance. That is a decision that will have to be made in Washington."

He then left Pyongyang, but several officials will stay until June 2 to tour around the country and keep on investigating its food needs.

King's trip was the first official US visit to the DPRK since 2009, and comes amid signs the United States is looking to revive multilateral talks on the DPRK's nuclear program after a hiatus of more than two years.

The DPRK's official KCNA news agency reported that King had left after a visit "to consult on humanitarian issues" and made no mention of the detainee.

The DPRK suffers chronic food shortages and has partly relied on aid from overseas.

UN agencies that visited in February said six million people - a quarter of the population - needed urgent aid, though some voices from Seoul are skeptical about the need.

Both the US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) halted shipments of rice to the DPRK in 2008.

"Visits by US and European officials to the DPRK do not suggest their relations with Pyongyang are improving, " said Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean affairs at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.

"The two sides have quite different mindsets and purposes. The US and the EU focus on human rights and therefore dispatch delegations to seek facts. As for the DPRK, asking for food aid and receiving investigations is a way to keep in contact with the West, " he added.

AFP-China Daily

(China Daily 05/30/2011 page12)


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