James D. Thurman, DOD: Officials Suspend
North Korea Nutrition Aid Over Planned Launch
March 29, 2012
Concerns that North Korea would
resume provocative behavior on the international stage in 2012 have
proven true, so the United States has suspended plans to provide
nutrition aid to the impoverished nation, senior defense officials told
“Our suspicions … were confirmed when North Korea announced on March 16
that it plans to conduct a missile launch between April 12th and 16,”
Peter R. Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and
Pacific security affairs, told members of the House Armed Services
Committee. “This grand launch is highly provocative, because it
manifests North Korea's desire to test and expand its long-range missile
Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, testified
alongside Lavoy in a hearing examining the security situation on the
After a series of U.S.-North Korean discussions in late February, the
North Korean government agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range
missile launches -- then announced plans for the launch just two weeks
later, Lavoy explained.
The United States had agreed during the February talks to provide
nutritional aid to North Korea. The World Food Program in November 2011
recommended targeted high-nutrition aid as critical to 3 million North
Koreans most at risk for starvation.
Lavoy and Thurman both confirmed the United States will not deliver the
planned nutrition aid.
“During those discussions, the United States made it very clear that a
satellite launch would be a deal-breaker,” Lavoy told the panel.
Both men said U.S. officials have worked to “delink” humanitarian aid
and political concerns, but defended the decision to suspend nutritional
“The fact that North Korea so brazenly violated commitments that it just
so recently agreed to … indicates that they're not reliable,” Lavoy
said. “We cannot expect them to meet … the commitments that they've
agreed to that are associated with the provision of nutritional
assistance to the needy population in their country.
“It's regrettable that the food aid is not moving forward,” he added.
“The North Korean population really needs nutritional assistance. And
we're prepared to provide that to North Korea.”
Thurman said officials are working closely with allies and other
partners in the region to try to discourage North Korea from launching
the missile. Meanwhile, the general added, “we have been forced to
suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance to North
Lavoy said the threatened launch would be in direct violation of U.N.
Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit North Korea
from conducting any launches that use ballistic missile technology.
The launch would involve a North Korean-made Kwangmyongsong-3
polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite to mark the 100th birthday of
late President Kim Il Sung, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for
Space Technology said in a statement.
The late president’s birthday is April 15.
Lavoy said North Korea’s authoritarian government, founded by Kim Il
Sung and subsequently led by Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un -- his son and
grandson, respectively -- seeks to provoke other nations militarily as a
means of demonstrating power to its people.
“Political successions are extraordinarily difficult when you don't have
a representative government, which is the case there, of course,” he
noted. Kim Jong Un took power after his father’s death in December.
“What we're seeing now and what we anticipate is provocative behavior,
because, unfortunately, this seems to be the only way that the North
Korean regime can try to demonstrate its bona fides to a population that
is suffering terribly,” Lavoy added.
Thurman said North Korea’s “military first” policy diverts national
resources away from food and essential services to the people.
“They maintain the fourth-largest conventional military force in the
world, the world's largest special operating force, and significant
long-range artillery capabilities,” the general said. “Over 70 percent
of their combat powers are arrayed within 90 miles of the demilitarized
Korea, home to some 28,500 forward-based U.S. troops, is “a vibrant
democracy, economic success and global security partner, currently
serving beside us in Afghanistan and off the Horn of Africa,” Thurman
“In stark contrast, one of the world's poorest, most closed and
most militarized countries, North Korea, lies less than 20 miles from
the northern districts of Seoul, a city of over 24 million people,” he
The United States and South Korea have for 60 years maintained a close
partnership aimed at deterring North Korean aggression and maintaining
stability on the peninsula, Thurman noted.
“We are prepared to defend the peninsula and can do that,” the general
said. “And we can repel any type of attack should the North Koreans
decide to do that.”