In North Korea, promises are apparently made to be broken. The Obama administration confirmed this week that it had suspended planned food aid to the rogue communist regime in response to Pyongyang's proposed April launch of a satellite-carrying rocket. The U.S. says the hermited nation is violating a February deal that secured aid in exchange for freezing its controversial weapons programs. Will America's food refusal bring North Korea back in line, or merely aggravate the situation? Here's what you should know:
How badly does North Korea need this aid?
Quite desperately. The government's disastrous policies have destroyed the country's economy. Since the 1990s, millions have starved to death, and the regime relies on foreign help to feed its people. The U.S. stopped sending aid in 2009 after negotiations to curb Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program broke down. In February, the U.S. agreed to ship the country 240,000 tons of grain, intended for children and pregnant women, after the World Food Program warned that a new wave of shortages had left three million North Koreans at risk of starvation.
Then why hold back the food now?
The government of Kim Jong Un — who took over when his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December — promised to suspend its nuclear activities and long-range missile launches when the U.S. agreed to send the much-needed food. Obama administration officials say they're not trying to punish Pyongyang — they simply have lost confidence that the isolated communist government will follow through on its commitments and deliver the aid to the people who need it. Pyongyang insists it has done nothing wrong, calling the satellite launch a peaceful scientific project that has nothing to do with the activities it agreed to halt.
Will any good come from withholding aid?
It certainly won't hurt the "unsvelte Kim Jong Un," says Mark Thompson at TIME. It's his hungry subjects who will suffer. But the U.S. can't very well look the other way, says Peter Hartcher in Australia's The Canberra Times. It doesn't matter if this rocket only holds a satellite. North Korea is a "nuclear-armed rogue state" with enough material for a half dozen atomic bombs, lacking only a missile capable of delivering them. C'mon, says Mark P. Barry at World Policy Blog, let's view this missile launch in perspective. The young Kim is just showing off for the folks back home as "part of consolidating a new regime."