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Several Republican Members Of Congress Urge Obama Administration To Deny North Korean Food Aid Request

Several Republican lawmakers said Thursday that the Obama administration should “deny North Korea’s request for food aid” because of concerns that it would support Kim Jong-Il’s regime, Agence France-Presse reports (Tandon, 3/10).

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and others “spoke about food aid on Thursday at a hearing on the North entitled: ‘North Korea’s Sea of Fire: Bullying, Brinkmanship and Blackmail,'” VOA News writes. “There are some grave concerns about this proposal,” she said, noting a 2009 incident in which North Korea distributed U.S. food aid after it expelled American humanitarian NGOs. According to Ros-Lehtinen, “given that next year is the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Jong-Il’s father, there is a danger that some of the aid could be used for ‘spectacle,'” the news service reports (Ide, 3/10).

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) “quoted defectors and a non-governmental group as saying that [previous] international food assistance went to feed the regime and its military rather than the impoverished populace,” AFP reports. However, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) “voiced support for food assistance,” the news service writes. “I would hope as long as there’s very good monitoring to ensure that those highly at risk get the food, this ought to be done yesterday,” he said. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) also supported food aid to the country. “We should make every effort to provide humanitarian assistance and food aid to the North Korean people, but we should insist on adequate monitoring to ensure that such aid is not diverted or misused,” he said.

“The Obama administration says it has not yet decided whether to provide food aid and would want close monitoring of any assistance,” AFP notes (3/10).

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