The United States has suspended plans to give food aid to North Korea due to the isolated country's failed promise to halt a planned missile launch, according to Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy.
Lavoy made comments regarding food aid and North Korea's planned missile launch at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
"This planned launch is highly provocative because it manifests North Korea's desire to test and expand long-range missile capability," Lavoy told legislators.
"We believe this reflects their lack of desire to follow though on their commitments, their international commitments, and so we've been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance to North Korea," he added.
North Korea announced that it would be firing a rocket into space in mid-April using a ballistic missile. The impoverished country argues it is doing so for scientific purposes, but the news has put security officials on edge, as many believe North Korea is in fact planning to launch a long-range missile test.
The use of ballistic missile technology is in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, and the launch would also be in violation of a deal struck last month by the U.S and North Korea to halt the country's missile program in return for U.S. food aid assistance.
On Monday, President Barack Obama warned North Korea "there will be no more rewards for provocation."
"You can continue down the road you are on, but we know where that leads. It leads to more of the same – more broken dreams, more isolation, ever more distance between the people of North Korea and the dignity and opportunity they deserve," he said.
The decision to halt food assistance will put millions of North Koreans who already live in a state of food insecurity at risk in the country, but U.S. officials have been clear that the food aid program has merely been suspended and not canceled, and have said that if North Korea decides to cancel its mid-April launch that food aid discussions could resume.
"Its been very important to us to de-link humanitarian assistance, including nutritional assistance and other kinds of activities such as recovery operations from politics and North Korea's provocative behavior," Lavoy said on Wednesday. "However, when we recently reached this deal it did prohibit North Korean missile launches."