JEJU, South Korea (AP) - North Korea wants to join the Asian Development Bank to seek economic aid for its impoverished people, but the bank's member nations are split on whether to admit the isolated communist nation, the ADB's president said Monday.
North Korea has repeatedly appealed for entry to the Manila-based ADB, which is run by 63 nations, mostly from Asia.
By joining the bank, Pyongyang would be eligible for potentially huge grants and loans the bank doles out to the region's poorest nations.
However, "a consensus has not been reached'' on admitting the country, bank president Tadao Chino told reporters at the end of the bank's three-day annual meeting on South Korea's resort island of Jeju.
Though some Asian nations say North Korea's membership might lessen its isolation and force it to reform, the United States is staunchly opposed to letting Pyongyang join and has used its clout as the bank's biggest contributor to keep the communist nation out.
On Sunday, Treasury Undersecretary John B. Taylor said Washington would mull Pyongyang's request only after a standoff over the North's suspected nuclear weapons program has been resolved.
The United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan, and Russia plan to call a new round of talks in Beijing before July in a bid to end the nuclear crisis, after two previous rounds ended without a breakthrough.
"We will consider discussions at the six-party talks before North Korea can join'' the ADB, Taylor said.
The United States is demanding that North Korea scrap any nuclear weapons programs.
The North says it needs to deter a potential U.S. invasion, and has demanded a nonaggression treaty from Washington and economic aid in return for dismantling its nuclear facilities.
North Korea has been relying on outside help to feed its 22 million populace since the mid-1990s due to economic mismanagement, loss of Soviet subsidies and years of bad weather.
More than 200,000 - some say 2 million - have since died of hunger and hunger-related diseases.
Foreign donors have given more than 8 million tons of food to North Korea since the mid-1990s, but nations worry such supplies might be diverted to feed North Korea's 1 million-member military. - AP
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