So here’s an example of the danger of tying foreign policy to humanitarian aid. The US and North Korea inked a deal on nuclear inspections and negotiations that would free up food aid for the North Korean people. Then the Kim Jong-un regime announced they would engage in a long-range missile test. And as a result, the US will suspend the food aid.
The US has confirmed it has suspended planned food aid to North Korea.
The decision comes after Pyongyang announced a new rocket launch, which the United States says breaks the terms of a deal agreed last month.
Under the deal signed in February, North Korea agreed to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid.
Mr Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific affairs, told a government committee that next month’s planned rocket launch “reflects [North Korea's] lack of desire to follow through on their international commitments and so we’ve been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance”.
Kim Jong-un won’t be affected by this. Nor will anyone in his family, anyone in the political leadership or anyone in the military. But millions of North Koreans will feel an immediate impact. There’s little difference between this and the euphemistically named “sanctions” on Iran, which have a similarly brutal impact on the local population. We know that sanctions, or denial of food aid in this case, work to increase poverty. It’s less clear that they work to force countries to heel.
What’s more, the US reputation as some kind of humanitarian beacon in the world unquestionably takes a hit when they suspend food aid and facilitate the starvation of the North Korean people.
This isn’t an easy situation, to be sure. The Pyongyang regime routinely starves its people as a matter of policy, and there’s no guarantee food aid would even get into the hands of those who need it. But there is a serious danger of tying these sensitive negotiations to humanitarian aid. It makes the people who have no decision-making power at the highest levels pawns in a diplomatic game.