“South Korea will not extend aid unless there is a sincere apology for two acts of aggression,” said a United Nations spokesman. “Japan and the U.S. have also proven unresponsive.”
At the same time, North Korean diplomats are making the rounds of every country they have relations with, begging for food aid. Specifically, they ask for rice.
The North Koreans claim that six million North Koreans face starvation this spring due to crop failure and floods and have asked the United Nations for 430,000 tons of food aid. However, some observers think it is little more than a deception.
In an interview on Radio Free Asia, the head of the German aid group Agro Action, which has been in the forefront of pushing for food aid for North Korea in previous years, thinks the “crisis” is non-existent.
“There are unquestionably food shortages in North Korea (but) there are also political reasons behind Pyongyang’s international drive to obtain aid,” said the director of Agro Action. “Conditions have improved so much that people can again grow enough to eat, thanks to new seed varieties and agricultural extension.”
The representative of Agro Aid added that rather than Europe giving food aid, North Korea would benefit more from agricultural reform and better use of existing farms. Further evidence appears to come from the black markets within North Korea.
A merchant in one of North Korea’s markets, only identified as “Kim” contacted by cell phone from China said, “Rice prices are dropping. Last year in December rice was around 3,000 Won a kilo. Now it’s below 2,000. I expect it to stabilize in the 1,500 Won region.”
Basically, if you have the money, there appears to be enough rice. Corn is also coming from China.
Which leads to the question: why are North Korean diplomats engaged in the frenzied worldwide search for rice and other food stuffs?
“The North Korean authorities possess 300,000 tons of food for the regular army and (a further) 700,000 tons for reserves and ordinary people,” claims South Korean congressman Yoon Sang Hyun, quoting South Korean military intelligence reports. “North Korea’s one million tons of war time reserves is enough to feed the whole population of 24 million for 83 days.”
Yoon also points out that North Korea has 1.5 million tons of fuel and 1.7 million tons of ammunition in reserve. “North Korea’s existing reserves…are of a scale large enough to support 100 days of war.”
North Korea watchers are puzzled by the drive by North Korea to obtain food aid, which has taken them to nations as varied as Zimbabwe and Poland. At the same time, North Korea’s leader Kim Il Jong has reportedly given a US $500,000 donation to tsunami relief efforts in Japan.
“Most people think it has something to do with the promises being made to the North Korean Congress that North Korea will enter the ranks of advanced nations in 2012,” said experts at south Korea’s Reunification Ministry. “Probably this means that there will be sufficient rice for everyone.”
On the other hand, it seems like the nations that are supposed to help North Korea achieve this by giving them free handouts suspect that it maybe nothing more than a sham.