U.S., S. Korea In Talks Over How To Respond To Food Aid Request By N. Korea

The U.S. continues to evaluate whether to resume food aid to North Korea amid reports of food shortages in the country, Agence France-Presse reports. 

During a press conference in Seoul on Saturday, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spoke of how the U.S. and South Korea are discussing how handle North Korea’s food aid request. According to the news service, “Campbell arrived in Seoul Saturday to discuss what he said was a ‘joint strategy’ about North Korea.”

In 2008, the U.S. pledged to provide 500,000 tons of rice to North Korea, but “shipments stopped the following year amid questions over distribution transparency,” AFP continues. South Korea stopped annual shipments of 400,000 tons of rice in 2008, but resumed emergency aid after North Korean flooding in 2010, only to cease the aid when the North began bombing a border island, according to the news service (3/12).

In a separate article, AFP describes the factors likely to exacerbate the food shortages in North Korea, as outlined by South Korean expert Kwon Tae-Jin of the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

In an interview with Yonhap news agency, Kwon noted that “shrinking international aid, higher global prices, China’s tighter restrictions on fertiliser exports, the intensely cold winter and the spread of foot-and-mouth disease,” are all likely to contribute to “the worsening of the North’s food situation,” according to AFP. Following an appeal for food aid by North Korean officials, representatives of the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in February began assessing the food situation on the ground in the country, the news service notes (3/11).

The officials are “expected to issue their report at the end of the month,” Reuters reports in a Q&A that describes how the food situation in the country has evolved over time (Laurence, 3/14).

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