US confirms it has suspended North Korea food aid plans

North Korean farmers work in a field along a highway outside the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, North Korea, 2011 North Korea has not been able to feed its people for years

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The US has confirmed it has suspended planned food aid to North Korea.

The decision comes after Pyongyang announced a new rocket launch, which the United States says breaks the terms of a deal agreed last month.

Earlier reports that the food aid plans had been put on hold were confirmed by a Pentagon official on Wednesday.

Peter Lavoy told lawmakers North Korea had violated a missile test moratorium agreement and could not be trusted to deliver the aid properly.

Under the deal signed in February, North Korea agreed to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid.

Mr Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific affairs, told a government committee that next month's planned rocket launch "reflects [North Korea's] lack of desire to follow through on their international commitments and so we've been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance".

Food shortages

North Korea claims the launch - which is scheduled for between April 12-16 - is only a satellite and is for scientific purposes.

But the US and North Korea's neighbours insist it will be a long-range missile test, breaking the terms of last month's agreement.

The US has not delivered food aid to North Korea since 2009, but sent officials to Pyongyang's ally China earlier this month to finalise plans to re-start food deliveries.

North Korea has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

The planned 240,000 tonnes of food aid from the US was to go to children and pregnant women.

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