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UN Agency to Halt Food Aid to China


The United Nations food agency has announced it will terminate its assistance to increasingly prosperous China. China says it will increase its own foreign aid budget, as it shifts gears from aid recipient to aid donor.

The U.N. World Food Program says it will phase out its donations to China by the end of next year.

Speaking in Beijing Friday, WFP chief executive James Morris said an increasingly affluent China should begin funding its own poverty assistance programs. "China is not a place that needs us in the extensive role we've played historically," said Mr. Morris.

Friday's announcement followed a five-day visit to China by Mr. Morris, who inspected WFP-supported projects and met Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The WFP's decision reflects China's enormous progress over the past 10 years. The agency started work here in 1979, providing food to poor families and funding local road-improvement and water projects.

But since the mid-1990s, China's economic growth has lifted more than 300 million of its people from extreme poverty. Mr. Morris says China is now in a position to join the ranks of international aid donors.

"I'm hopeful that China will partner with the World Food Program to help us do more to take advantage of the strength they have, the experience, to address these tough issues elsewhere," added Mr. Morris. He asked China to help the WFP in sending food aid to China's impoverished communist neighbor, North Korea.

China contributed more than $20 million to the WFP last year, and said it will consider increasing support in the future. But the request puts Beijing in a difficult position - as it funds more international projects, other nations are likely to stop assisting China's own programs.

Japanese officials said last month they are already considering major reductions in aid to Beijing. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura cited China's economic growth as a primary cause for the proposed cuts.

And earlier this year in Ottawa, opposition politicians tried to cut Canada's support for China. Critics there accused Beijing of accepting overseas contributions while spending billions of dollars to upgrade its military and expand its space program.

China is the world's second largest economy, but 20 percent of its people live in poverty.

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