World and Nation

UN Agency Suspends Work With North Korea, Curtails Programs

The U.N. Development Program said Monday it was suspending work in North Korea because the country had failed to meet conditions set up in response to American complaints that U.N. money was being diverted to the government of Kim Jong Il.

“We have decided to suspend our operations, and the ball is really now in the court of the DPR Korean authorities,” said David Morrison, director of communications for the agency, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

The decision, which curtails 20 programs with a budget of $4.4 million, was made Friday, a day after Pak Gil Yon, the North Korean ambassador to the U.N., met with Ad Melkert, the development program’s associate director, to say that his country would not agree to new conditions for assistance.

Those conditions were that the U.N. would stop furnishing payments in hard currency to the government, local vendors and individuals, and stop making in-country hires subject to government approval.

The demands, along with a March 1 deadline, were imposed by the development program’s executive board on Jan. 25 after the U.S. mission charged that the U.N. program had been “systematically perverted for the benefit of the Kim Jong Il regime rather than the people of North Korea.”

Morrison said there was no connection between the announcement and the beginning on Monday, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, of two days of talks between North Korea, represented by Kim Kye Gwan, and the U.S., represented by Christopher R. Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, on the North Korean nuclear program.

“The timing was driven by our undertaking as made explicit in the board decision of the 25th of January to only continue our operations in the DPRK if certain conditions were met by March 1, which was Thursday,” he said.

The development program also said in January that it was narrowing its program to what Morrison said were “activities designed more directly to benefit the North Korean people rather than to build capacity of the North Korean government.”

Morrison said the North Koreans responded that this action “represented a politicization of the foreign assistance process.”