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General Tells RTTNews North Korea Aid Should Be Contingent On Democracy Programs

General Tells RTTNews North Korea Aid Should Be Contingent On Democracy Programs

Speaking at a think tank event on North Korea Thursday evening, General Walter L. Sharp (ret.) told RTTNews he believes all U.S. aid to the isolated Asian country should be contingent on equal promotion of democracy programs there.

"As long as food aid is going in there, North Korea is not forced to change an economic system that they have in place in order to feed their people to at least some degree. So the money that they do get, it goes into their military," the former ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Commander said in a Q and A during the event.

"Until the world is able to force North Korea to open more up...we will continue to spiral down, I believe, in the problems that we have - that North Koreans have feeding their people."

After the event, the General went further with this idea.

When asked by RTTNews how the U.S. could continue to provide food aid to the DPRK without inadvertently contributing to their military build-up, Sharp said the U.S. should make all food aid to the DPRK contingent on democracy programs.

Specifically, he told RTTNews any North Koreans who received U.S. food aid should also receive a radio "so they can listen to Radio Free Asia or Voice of America."

This recommendation, if taken into consideration, would seemingly mean a break from previous U.S. policy stating food aid is not tied to the nuclear or security problems between the two states.

Recently, the Obama administration has increasingly broken with this policy, especially in the wake of a failed "nukes-for-food" Leap Day agreement brokered between the two sides.

On February 29, the DPRK agreed to suspend all long-range missile launches and nuclear tests. It also consented to stop nuclear activities at Yongbyon, a research facility in the country's north.

The U.S. side was truly heartened by the deal. The President considered it a significant success.

However, two weeks after the agreement, the North announced it would be performing a test launch of a satellite. The ability to launch such a satellite, the U.S. said, would only signal the DPRK was continuing their ICBM research.

"The President is said to be very upset about that [launch announcement," New York Times Diplomatic Correspondent Steven Lee Meyers said at the CSIS event.

"[The administration] really felt a sense of betrayal but also confusion," he added.

On March 16, the U.S. declared it would suspended the food aid shipment to North Korea.

"We make it a practice not to link humanitarian aid with any other policy issues, particularly in the case of the DPRK," U.S. Department of State Spokeswomen Toria Nuland told reporters that day.

"We do want to assist the North Korean people, particularly those who the regime has chosen to neglect. That said, a launch of this kind, which would abrogate our agreement, would call into question the credibility of all the commitments that the DPRK has made to us, is making in general, including the commitments that we've had with regard to the nutritional assistance."

Thus, the administration for the first time made the admission that the nuclear issue and the food aid issue were linked.

Speaking on Friday with RTTNews, former State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley said he did not agree with General Sharp's radio-for-food idea.

Instead, he suggested the best way to affect change in the totalitarian state would be to interact more closely with its locals.

"We have to be tough in terms of the conditions. But I think putting outsider into North Korea any way we can, distributing food and telling them we're serving this because you're country has refused to care for you, is a very powerful message," the General Omar N. Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership told the RTTNews Washington bureau staff reporter by phone from Pennsylvania.

"I think that the issue here is how to have the greatest possible influence in North Korea. And I think finding ways to have interaction with the North Korean people is to me just one way to end their isolation."

The U.S. re-stated April 5 their disapproval of the satellite launch and said they would not be attending the launch, to which International Atomic Energy Association officials have been invited.

Asked what the U.S. policy will be going forward, State Department Deputy Spokesman told reporters, "We don't want to see the satellite launch. I'm not going to speculate down the road. We believe that this satellite launch would be in violation of UN Security - existing UN Security Council resolutions, so let's deal with the issue at hand here."

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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