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North Korea, U.S. to set final food aid details

By Jamie Crawford, CNN National Security Producer
updated 2:51 PM EST, Fri March 2, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A meeting in Beijing is to nail down "the technical arrangements"
  • Details on the kind of assistance and the amount are settled, Nuland says
  • She calls bellicose statements from Pyongyang "not helpful"

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. and North Korean officials will meet in Beijing next week for "face-to-face technical discussions" to finalize details allowing the resumption of food aid to the North, the State Department said Friday.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will meet with his counterpart on Wednesday to "finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The talks will focus on issues such as what ports will be used to dock incoming ships, how the distribution of the food will be monitored, and which non-governmental organizations will be involved. The talks will be the final phase in implementing U.S. food aid, Nuland said.

"The strategic issue that we will do it, the kinds of nutritional assistance, the amount, all of that is settled," she said.

The announcement of next week's meeting came hours after the North issued bellicose statements against South Korea. Nuland called such comments "unfortunate."

The comments were "not helpful to the kind of environment that we are trying to foster," she said. "We had a good, small initial step. We would like to see that matched with other steps moving forward."

Earlier this week, North Korea announced an agreement to freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors. The United States announced it would provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance to the impoverished country.

The agreement was cautiously welcomed by U.S. officials in the hope that a new era in relations with the North would begin and lead to a resumption of multilateral talks aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

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