The United States will donate 50,000 metric tons of food to North Korea (search) to help overcome continuing shortages in that country, the State Department said Friday.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said the gesture is unrelated to U.S. efforts to negotiate the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The food will be distributed by the U.N.'s World Food Program (search).

U.S. decisions on food aid are made on the basis of need, competing needs elsewhere, and the WFP's ability to make deliveries to vulnerable groups and to monitor distribution.

Boucher said the WFP has told U.S. officials that the North Koreans have allowed an increased number of monitoring visits to distribution sites in the country. Also, he said, WFP evaluations of family food security conditions have been more frequent.

But, Boucher said, North Korea "still falls short of meeting international standards for humanitarian access that are accepted by other recipients of international food assistance."

The WFP has issued a global appeal for 484,000 metric tons of food deliveries for North Korea this year.