The United States is to donate 50,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea amid growing fears of a new famine.

U.S. officials say the move is a humanitarian gesture and not intended to lure Kim Jong-il's regime back to stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear program.

"It is a humanitarian act based on need and not based on political considerations and not linked to six-party talks," said U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

But later, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the U.S. still has concerns about where the food is going.

That it is "getting to the people who need it, the people who are starving, the people who are hungry and we want to make sure there are assurances that that food is going to those who need it, not to the government and not to the military in North Korea," said McClellan at a White House briefing.

The new donation comes a month after the World Food Program warned of a new crisis similar to the famine which devastated North Korea in the 1990s.

The US supplied 50,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea last year and 100,000 tonnes the year before, making it one of the largest single providers of aid to the country.

The other main donors are the European Union and South Korea.

The WFP says it has almost run out of food stocks to keep 6.5 million North Koreans from starvation.