By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 31 (Yonhap) -- U.S. government officials and experts focused on coordinating monitoring terms of possible food aid to North Korea during their trip to the communist nation last week, the U.S. administration said Tuesday.
"While they were there, they discussed, specifically related to the food assessment, monitoring terms necessary to ensure that if indeed we did provide humanitarian aid to North Korea, that it would reach those for whom it's intended," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a press briefing.
Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights, led a team of officials and experts to Pyongyang last week before the Obama administration makes a decision on whether to resume food aid to the hunger-stricken nation.
King became the first U.S. official to travel to the North in recent months amid lingering military tensions between the two Koreas and a protracted stand-off over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons drive.
The spokesman acknowledged it is a "pressing" issue to decide on humanitarian aid for North Korea but said it is still too early to talk about the details of what King's team found there.
Toner did not confirm when King will return to Washington, where he is supposed to attend a Congress hearing on Thursday. Toner also did not confirm whether the United States had briefed South Korean officials on the outcome of the fact-finding mission.
King said in a separate meeting with reporters in Beijing over the weekend that his team was "received at the highest levels" in Pyongyang.
Toner said King met with several North Korean officials, including First Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Gun, director general for North American Affairs at the foreign ministry.
Toner said the food assessment experts will remain in North Korea until Thursday and the Obama administration will make a final decision after they present related reports.
"Obviously we have to wait for the food assessment team to get back, and then we'll look at (that information), and we'll compare it to the other data that we have, before a decision's made," he said.
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