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U.S. Republicans criticize N.K. deal

WASHINGTON (AFP) ― Republican lawmakers Wednesday criticized President Barack Obama and warned that North Korea was not to be trusted after it promised to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for U.S. food aid.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch critic of communist countries, said that the North Korea agreement “sounds a lot like the failed agreements of the past.”

“North Korea’s promise to suspend certain nuclear activities can’t be taken at face value, given the almost certain existence of several undeclared nuclear facilities,” she said in a statement.

“Pyongyang will likely continue its clandestine nuclear weapons program right under our noses. We have bought this bridge several times before.”

North Korea, which kicked out inspectors from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency in 2009, said Wednesday that it would allow them to return to monitor a new moratorium on uranium enrichment.

The communist state also said that it would suspend nuclear and missile tests. The U.S. State Department praised the “important, if limited, progress” and said it would move ahead on providing nutritional assistance.

A senior U.S. official said that the United States rejected requests for rice and grains and instead would provide, under tight monitoring, items such as oil and ready-to-eat meals for children and expectant mothers.

Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican who has long sought more pressure on North Korea, said that the death in December of longtime leader Kim Jong-il should have prompted a “rethink” in policy toward the authoritarian state.

“Years of getting duped by North Korea should tell us that verification on their turf is extremely difficult, if not impossible,” said Royce, who heads a House subcommittee on non-proliferation.

“That applies to food aid distribution, where the military has stolen food aid, or nuclear disarmament,” he said.

Royce last year authored a measure to bar any food aid to North Korea, arguing that it would benefit the regime by allowing it to spend money on nuclear weapons. The Republican-led House approved the ban in June.

But a final version reached after consultation with the Senate, which is led by Obama’s Democratic Party, was less rigid and prohibited food aid to countries without adequate monitoring for misuse.

Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that nutritional assistance “is the right thing to do if we can ensure our aid will reach those in need.”

He said that a freeze of nuclear activities and return of inspectors “would be a very positive development.”

“These may be the green shoots of progress from careful engagement,” Kerry added.
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