A senior US military official has said that the issue of food aid for North Korea is now linked to political conditions.
Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, made the comments to a Senate committee on Tuesday.
He said conditions being discussed for food aid resumption included talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programme.
This contradicts official US policy, where the nuclear programme is separate from the provision of food aid.
North Korea relies on international aid to feed its people.
"There are conditions that are going along with the negotiations with regard to the extent of food aid," Adm Willard told the US Senate Armed Forces Committee.
He said "preconditions" for assistance "now include discussions of cessation of nuclearisation and ballistic missile testing and the allowance of IAEA perhaps back into Yongbyon [reactor]".
In 2009, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were asked to leave Yongbyon as denuclearisation talks between North Korea and its dialogue partners - the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan - broke down.