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US commander admits conditions on N Korea aid

US: A US commander acknowledged Tuesday that Washington has linked food aid for North Korea to progress on military issues, saying the impoverished communist state needs to halt its nuclear program.

The US State Department has repeatedly denied it is tying politics to North Korea's requests for food and insisted it is only assessing humanitarian needs, amid reports by Christian aid groups of widespread hunger.

But Admiral Robert Willard, head of US Pacific Command, which covers Asia, outlined the conditions to food aid as he testified before Congress, where many lawmakers are skeptical of assistance to the hostile country.

"There are conditions that are going along with the negotiations with regard to the extent of food aid," Willard told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Willard said "preconditions" for assistance "now include discussions of cessation of nuclearization and ballistic missile testing and the allowance of IAEA perhaps back into Yongbyon." North Korea in 2009 kicked inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the UN nuclear watchdog -- out of Yongbyon, the communist regime's key nuclear facility that was vital in developing atomic weapons.

The United States and North Korea last week held talks in Beijing aimed at resuming moribund six-nation nuclear negotiations. Washington has demanded Pyongyang commit to previous agreements on giving up its nuclear weapons. AFP

 

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