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North Korea warns of the food crisis, shakes rations before the next summit

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea has warned that it is facing a food shortage of about 1.4 million tonnes by 2019 and has been forced to halve rations, blaming high temperatures, droughts, floods and UN sanctions in a memo seen by Reuters on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO – A North Korean farm is seen in the rice fields of Hwanggumpyong Island, located in the middle of the Yalu River, near the North Korean city of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border town of Dandong, North Phyongan Province, North Korea on June 19, 2015. REUTERS / Jacky Chen / File Photo

The release of the undisputed two-sided memo team of North Korea's mission to the United Nations comes before a second summit next week between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Washington has demanded that North Korea give up a nuclear program threatening the United States, while North Korea has sought the lifting of punitive sanctions, a formal end to the Korean War of 1950-53 and security guarantees.

The UN Security Council with 15 members has unanimously increased sanctions against North Korea since 2006 with the aim of smothering the funding of Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"The North Korean government urges international organizations to respond quickly to dealing with the food situation," read the North Korean memo as the country's UN mission described as a follow-up to joint assessment with the World Food Program between November 26 and December 7, 2018. WFP refused to comment .

The official name of North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The note said that North Korea's food production last year was 4 951 million tonnes, 503 000 tonnes in 2017. The United Nations confirmed these figures as official figures released at the end of January and said that North Korea's food production included rice, wheat, potatoes and soybeans.

North Korea said it would import 200,000 tonnes of food and produce about 400,000 tonnes of early crops, but it would still be left with a gap and from January would cut daily rations to 300 grams per person from 550 grams.

U.N. North Korea officials and aid groups advised the government to "understand the consequences of the food security situation for the most vulnerable people to take early action to deal with their humanitarian needs," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Thursday.

He said the UN and support groups could only help one-third of six million people estimated to be in need last year due to lack of funding. A US $ 111 million call in 2018 was funded only one quarter, Dujarric said.

The United Nations estimates that a total of 10.3 million people – almost half of the population – are in need and about 41 percent of North Koreans are malnourished, Dujarric said.


Along with extreme weather, the North Korean memo also blames UN sanctions to limit the supply of agricultural materials and impede the fuel supply for the agricultural sector.

US. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said earlier this month that the United States had eased humanitarian aid rules to North Korea and worked to clear a backlog of UN approvals.

Benjamin Silberstein, co-editor of North Korean Economy Watch and an associate researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the harvest had been poor but there was no sign of an emergency.

"That is, of course, at least partly about the sanctions," Silberstein said.

"Just look at how the letter is formulated. They want to make it sound like sanctions are difficult so that the US really should be benevolent and give it up," he said.

Humanitarian aid was almost stopped in 2018, as the United States increased UN sanctions, despite the sanctions committee in North Korea having said sanctions "not intended to have negative humanitarian consequences for the civilian population." "While the Security Council sanctions clearly excluded humanitarian activities, there have been unintended consequences for humanitarian operations," Dujarric said.

Margareta Wahlstrom, president of the Red Cross, told Reuters after a trip to North Korea in November that, in the areas where they were active, the death harvest was only 65 percent of what would be normal for the combination of an influenza outbreak, heat wave and a typhoon

Russia is considering sending 50,000 tonnes of wheat in humanitarian b Able to North Korea to help deal with natural disasters, Interfax Senior Russian Legislator Konstantin Kosachev cites the news last week.

Kim Young-hee, a North Korean defector and an expert in the North Korean economy at Korea's development bank in Seoul, did not believe the note would ask for food.

"The listing seems like a message that says that while UN sanctions do not directly affect people's lives, they affect the whole economy and people's livelihoods deteriorate. So it would not be good if sanctions were made easy?", She said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols in the United States Further reporting by Joyce Lee, Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL; Editing by James Dalgleish and Paul Tait

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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