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Date: Tue, 22 Apr 97 10:47:59 CDT
From: bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Washington, Seoul Keep Trying To Coerce Pyongyang With Food
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC Washington, Seoul Keep Trying To Coerce Pyongyang With Food

Washington, Seoul Keep Trying To Coerce Pyongyang With Food

By Francisco Picado, Militant, Vol. 61, no. 16, 21 April 1997

NEW YORK—The U.S. and south Korean governments continue to use food as a cudgel against the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), including attempts to coerce Pyongyang into joining peace talks aimed at securing a treaty that would replace the truce that ended the 1950-53 U.S. war against Korea.

After preventing it for months, Washington said it would allow Cargill Inc., the giant U.S. grain monopoly, to sell food to the DPRK. The deal reportedly involves trading 4,000 tons of zinc for 20,000 tons of wheat. Seoul lifted its ban on private rice donations March 31. But Cargill's transaction, the private donations from south Korea, and the other food aid received by the DPRK so far, fall well short of the 2.3 million tons of extra grain needed this year.

The severe food shortages faced by north Korea are a result of massive flooding that devastated the county's farm land the last two summers. According to Catherine Bertini, the World Food Program's executive director, as things now stand Pyongyang will face a shortfall of about 1.3 million tons. UNICEF spokesman Hans Olsen said that according to DPRK officials, 134 children have died of malnutrition in the country.

Tokyo, meanwhile, has refused to open its vast reserves of surplus rice. Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto claimed Tokyo was wary of promising food aid because of new evidence of alleged kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s.

Despite the lifting of its ban on privately sponsored aid, the south Korean government continues to withhold relief shipments, trying to force the DPRK to agree to the role Seoul wants to have in the proposed negotiations.

The north Korean government has said that talks should be between Pyongyang and Washington, not Seoul. Until now, rice has been [south Korean president] Kim Young Sam's most important north Korea policy tool, said O Je Shin, director of the south Korean office of World Vision, on the day the ban was lifted. World Vision is a California based aid group.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and south Korean governments routinely organize massive war maneuvers south of the demilitarized zone that has divided the Korean peninsula since the 1950-53 war. The U.S. government maintains 37,000 troops and heavy weaponry in south Korea to this day. In January they staged air drills involving up to 200 warplanes directed against Pyongyang.

A recent trip to the north of Korea by a U.S. congressman received fairly wide coverage in the big-business press. After completing a four-day tour of the DPRK, Rep. Anthony Hall said he was stunned by what I saw ... and by how much worse conditions have gotten since I was there last August. Although he reported he saw evidence of slow starvation on massive scale, he said he saw no sign that hunger was on the verge of spurring a popular revolt against the government.