World Food Program told to leave North Korea

Friday, September 23, 2005

North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon has asked the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to stop providing food aid in the country.

Claiming a good harvest provided the country with sufficient food, and that the US was politicizing the aid issue, the formal request to end all humanitarian aid was made to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at a meeting on September 21.

The WFP has been feeding approximately six million of the poorest and most needy in the reclusive communist state. There is much concern its withdrawal will leave many without adequate aid.

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Neighbouring countries, including China and South Korea, will continue to supply food aid to the North Koreans; however, the donors do not manage this aid and international organisations are unable to determine that it is reaching those who need it.

The request for the WFP's withdrawal is suspected by some to be related to the ongoing talks about the nuclear program of North Korea; continued acceptance of aid is seen as a weakness that may influence their negotiating position.