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EU Team Visits North Korea to Assess Food Aid Needs


Kim Yong-nam (R), president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of N. Korea, shakes hands with Jean-Claude Frecon, who is leading the delegation of the French group, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang June 3, 2011, in this picture re

Kim Yong-nam (R), president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of N. Korea, shakes hands with Jean-Claude Frecon, who is leading the delegation of the French group, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang June 3, 2011, in this picture re

A team of European officials is traveling in North Korea to assess the need for food aid to the impoverished but nuclear-armed country.

The five-member team flew to North Korea from Beijing on Monday and is expected to remain until June 17, visiting both the countryside and the capital, Pyongyang.

The five are members of the European Union's humanitarian aid agency. The head of the team, Marco Capurro, told Japan's Kyodo news agency the group expects to discuss its findings with international agencies and with members of a U.S. team that just completed a similar mission.

The head of the U.S. team, human rights envoy Robert King, said his group still has not decided whether food aid is warranted. He said that even if there is a need, North Korea must find a way to assure donors that it will go to those most in need.

North Korea has suffered chronic food shortages since a severe famine in the 1990s, which was blamed in part on government policies. Regular rice shipments from South Korea have been cut off amid severe military tensions between the countries.

United Nations food agency teams recently reported that more than one quarter of North Korea's population is in urgent need of food aid.

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