- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 25 (UPI) — Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that the United States will donate 100,000 tons of food aid to North Korea.

However, even with the promise of humanitarian aid, Powell did not rule out military action against North Korea, which has refused to end its nuclear programs.

The United States will make an initial contribution of 40,000 tons of food to North Korea this year and was prepared to donate an additional 60,000 tons, Powell said.

"We know that people are starving in North Korea. We know the economy is not functioning. We know that the whole society is in great distress," Powell told a news conference, wrapping up his four-day visit to Asia to mainly discuss the North Korean nuclear issue.

International donors will try to make sure "needy people receive the food that is intended for them," he said.

Powell blamed the North Korean leadership led by Kim Jong Il for ignoring its people's poverty, saying it "acts in a way that is simply inconsistent with basic human values and basic economic sense."

"North Korea's leadership takes what limited resources it has and invests it into an army that hangs over the 38th parallel (inter-Korean border) in great strength, a leadership that spends its limited resources on developing nuclear weapons, resources that should be going to the people," he said.

Powell said Washington didn't want to use food aid as a "political weapon" to press North Korea to change its defiant behavior.

Asked about the possibility of military action against North Korea, Powell said Washington had not removed any possible options to end the nuclear dispute.

Powell also said Washington would continue to push for a multilateral effort to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, dismissing Seoul's hopes of direct talks between North Korea and the United States.

Powell downplayed the recent missile launch by North Korea as "not surprising." "It seems to be a fairly innocuous kind of test," he said.

North Korea Monday fired a land-to-ship missile into international waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, placing South Korea's military on alert.

Powell's news conference came after a meeting with Roh Moo-hyun, who took office as South Korea's president on Tuesday.

At the meeting at the presidential office, Roh accepted a request from President George W. Bush to visit Washington "at an early date," presidential spokeswoman Song Kyoung-hee said.

Roh has never visited the United States and said during the election campaign he would not "kowtow" to Washington, sparking concerns about policy rifts between the two allies.

Roh told Powell he was confident that the two countries would "resolve differences through dialogue," Song said.

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