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WFP chief says 'tremendous sense of optimism' in N. Korea amid peace efforts

2018/05/15 18:19

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SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) -- North Koreans are buoyed with a "tremendous sense of optimism" that recent diplomatic efforts will pave the way for a new future, the chief of a United Nations food aid agency who recently visited Pyongyang said Tuesday.

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), also noted the communist state's "genuine desire to be more open," as its leader Kim Jong-un has recently shifted toward denuclearization talks after years of saber-rattling.

"I can tell you in my opinion there's a tremendous sense of optimism by the leadership ... by the people that I met with in the hopes that they will be turning a new chapter in history ... a new page," he told a press conference in Seoul.

"What was pleasing was there seemed to be genuine desire to be more open ... and more frank and candid discussions. I must say it is a good beginning, and we are hopeful that this positive momentum will continue," he added.

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, speaks during a press conference in Seoul on May 15, 2018. (Yonhap) David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, speaks during a press conference in Seoul on May 15, 2018. (Yonhap)

Beasley visited Seoul after his four-day trip to the North, which ended last Friday. He spent two days having talks with senior officials in Pyongyang and the remainder meeting ordinary citizens in the countryside.

His latest visit to the North came after the North's dynastic ruler shifted his policy focus to economic reconstruction and engaged in fast-paced summit diplomacy apparently aimed at easing his country's isolation and securing sanctions relief.

Asked about his view on whether the sanctions have impacted WFP activities, Beasley stressed his agency's priority task of ensuring that children are not adversely affected by "political decisions."

   "We do our best to make it as easy as possible so that innocent children don't suffer the consequences," he said.

"I believe every child in the DPRK (the North) has the same right as any child around the world, and we truly believe when sanctions become an issue, we do our best to make sure that the Security Council and other nations understand the problem we are facing," he added.

Touching on the monitoring mechanism designed to ensure that food aid flows to the right beneficiaries, such as children and pregnant women, -- rather than into the wrong hands, the WFP chief said he had "frank" conversations with North Korean authorities.

"I am hopeful that we will have the monitoring in place, but I was very clear with them that donors around the world expect the monitoring to be in place regardless of which country it is," he said.

"I want to reiterate that the DPRK gave us all indications that they plan to meet our standards and work with us. We are looking forward to that."

   Beasley then voiced hopes that the June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader can work out well.

"Who would have ever thought three months ago, we will be in this sense of optimism ... I can reemphasize the sense of optimism in the DPRK was clear and apparent," he said. "Everything we can do is to continue that momentum."