The United States has suspended plans to send food aid to North Korea because it has broken a promise to halt missile launches, a Pentagon official said.
The United States had previously warned that any launch would jeopardize food assistance, but the official's comments at a congressional hearing marked a tougher stance and made clear plans to deliver aid had already been scrapped.
| A farmer rides down road on an ox-cart in South Phyongan Province, North Korea in April 2011. |
A planned rocket launch next month by North Korea "reflects their lack of desire to follow through on their international commitments and so we've been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance to North Korea," Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, told lawmakers.
Under a deal reached last month, North Korea had agreed to a partial nuclear freeze and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid.
North Korea has scheduled what it calls a satellite launch between April 12-16, insisting it is for scientific purposes.
The United States and other countries say it would in fact be a long-range missile test banned under UN resolutions.
"This planned launch is highly provocative because it manifests North Korea's desire to test and expand its long-range missile capability," said Lavoy, adding that it violated UN Security Council resolutions.
Just weeks before North Korea announced plans for the launch, the regime had agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile launches in return for food aid, he said.
"During those discussions, the United States made it very clear that a satellite launch would be a deal breaker," he said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said "it obviously makes sense that we're not moving forward with this (food aid) right now till we see what happens."