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Originally published Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Nourish diplomacy by sending food aid to North Korea

Maintain political pressure and economic sanctions on North Korea, but keep the diplomatic channels open with food deliveries to an impoverished nation. Think ahead.

Seattle Times Editorial

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HERE is a radical response to North Korea's spectacular failure to launch a rocket and put a satellite into orbit. Deliver the promised, then canceled, humanitarian relief.

Keep diplomatic channels open with the 240,000 tons of food aid planned before North Korea's centennial salute to the nation's founder disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.

Presumably, the U.S. and the world will be dealing with North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, for decades. The grandson of Kim Il-sung has taken on all of the facades and pretensions of leadership, and this is a time when impressions are being made at home and abroad.

Helping feed a starving nation does indeed look ahead to the next generation. Providing food aid is wholly apart from maintaining political and economic pressure on the country.

Sending food does not preclude international sanctions to deny North Korea access to electronic technology and military hardware.

The Associated Press reports more than one-fourth of North Korea depends on international food aid, living in homes without electricity or running water.

The anger over the rocket launch, and the quiet glee at its failure, should be followed by efforts to get the attention of North Korea's young leader, and those young military officers being queued up behind him.

Severe food shortages persist from devastating famines in the 1990s that claimed an estimated 600,000 lives. Hard winters and floods continue to knock down the country's fragile capacity to feed itself.

Send the food aid with an insurance policy of sorts. Use the connections and credibility of nongovernmental organizations, including Mercy Corps and World Vision, to track the deliveries. They have done this work before. Get the United Nations involved as well.

Keep diplomatic channels open. Move beyond the provocations and deliver basic food relief.

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