- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

BEIJING — The U.N. World Food Program may be forced to cut off food aid to nearly 4 million North Koreans in coming weeks because it hasn’t received enough foreign food donations, the agency’s director said yesterday.

The agency has received only 60 percent of the food needed this year for its goal of feeding 6.5 million North Koreans, WFP Executive Director James Morris said in Beijing.

“In January, we’ll probably stop feeding about 3 million people,” Mr. Morris said. He said WFP programs that have eased malnutrition significantly among North Korean children likely would be hurt.

“That progress is seriously at risk if we don’t get the food we need,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s a very serious problem.”

He spoke about the shortage of food donations as North Korea again threatened to strengthen its nuclear arsenal, this time blaming the United States for developing new, smaller nuclear weapons.

Last month, President Bush lifted a decade-long ban on research into low-yield nuclear arms and authorized $15 million for research into a nuclear weapon capable of destroying deep underground bunkers.

“The U.S. imperialists’ moves to develop smaller nukes only compel the DPRK to beef up its deterrent force to cope with the nuclear attacks of the U.S.,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The United States has been pressuring North Korea to scrap its nuclear-weapons program. U.S. officials believe North Korea already has one or two nuclear bombs and can build several more within months.

As North Korea continues nuclear brinkmanship with the United States, it remains unable to feed its 22 million people. Efforts to attract donations have been complicated by tensions with foreign governments, the North’s reluctance to let outsiders monitor food distribution, and competing appeals for aid in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The United States gave 40,000 tons of food this year, down from 155,000 tons in earlier years, Mr. Morris said. Japan, once the North’s biggest donor, has given nothing for the past two years because of disputes with the North over its nuclear program and abductions of Japanese citizens years ago.

Mr. Morris said the World Food Program could resume normal aid distribution in late January because of promised donations from Russia. However, he said that food would last only a few weeks, and the agency would have to cut off supplies to 3.8 million people in February if it doesn’t receive more help.

The World Food Program is discussing with Washington a possible donation worth $4.2 million, Mr. Morris said. He didn’t say how much food that donation would include.

North Korea has depended on foreign food aid since revealing in the mid-1990s that its state-run farming industry had collapsed after decades of mismanagement and the loss of Soviet subsidies.

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