North Korea said Monday its decision to stop receiving emergency food aid was based solely on improved harvests, and accused the U.S. of spreading rumors that the aid threatened Pyongyang's political system.
Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency on Monday said a recent seminar by a Washington think tank that links the North's lingering famine to its lack of political and civil liberties "was intended to hurl mud" at the north.
North Korea "decided to conclude the international humanitarian aid as the humanitarian situation has remarkably improved in the country," KCNA said. "There is no need for others to say this or that about the (North's) step."
The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea has argued that generous food assistance from South Korea and China, offered with few conditions, has undercut the ability of the World Food Program and other donors to monitor the North to make sure the food gets to hungry people.
KCNA said last month's seminar, which featured a U.S. aid official as a speaker, "helped the U.S. implement its policy of using food aid as a lever for pressuring" the North and exposed America's "sinister" purpose of "bringing down the system."
The United Nations' World Food Program has fed 6.5 million people annually for the last several years, nearly a third of the country's population, after famine caused by poor harvests killed as many as 2 million people during the 1990.