North korea

The threat of low crop yields in North Korea may lead to outside food aid to avert widespread starvation. North Korean officials are concerned whether food aid will be linked with the ongoing talks with South Korea and the us to reduce tension in the Korean peninsula. North Korea's foreign ministry has asked the us for guarantees that food will not be used as a political weapon. However, the officials said that North Korea will soon be ready for preliminary talks with South Korea.

An official assessment of North Korea's food needs will not come until later this month, after a World Food Program team, which is assessing the food situation, completes an on-site inspection. But a preliminary estimate from government officials and relief workers is that North Korea may produce only about half of what is needed. In some hard-hit areas of the mountainous north, as much as 70 per cent of the corn crop may be lost.

John Prout, the deputy director of the World Food Program said, "No one expects a particularly rosy picture.' This rather bleak assessment of the conditions here contrasts with more optimistic view recently put forward by a few aid workers.

Namanga Ngongi, the World Food Program's deputy director, after his visit, said that relief aid had already alleviated the worst of North Korea's suffering. But the majority of the aid workers in North Korea do not share the same view. The say that some of the scenes of hunger and deprivation in North Korea are familiar to the conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.

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