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Rights Group Details Evidence of Chinese Aid Shipment to North Korea

Bags of rice on a 30-ton truck awaiting delivery to North Korea, January 12, 2012.

Bags of rice on a 30-ton truck awaiting delivery to North Korea, January 12, 2012.

China appears to have delivered a large amount of rice and possibly other aid to impoverished North Korea.

A human rights group says its members witnessed convoys of Chinese trucks taking food aid into North Korea, this month.

The Seoul-based Citizen's Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees Tuesday released photographs it says were taken by its research team at customs stations in Tumen, on the Chinese side of the border.

The pictures, said to be taken January 12, show 30-ton cargo trucks stacked with rice bags, waiting to enter North Korea.

A representative of the group, Do Hee-yoon explains a large amount of rice was quickly delivered from Tumen, as well as two other border cities, Dandong and Jian.

In a VOA interview, the official of the South Korean non-governmental organization says such deliveries this time of year from China to North Korea are rare. He says the deliveries took place for about 10 days before the Lunar New Year holiday.

In Japan, the Tokyo Shimbun reports China pledged to give North Korea a half million tons of food aid and a quarter million tons of crude oil, last month.

The article says the decision was made in a meeting chaired by Chinese President Hu Jintao, the day after Pyongyang announced that Kim Jong Il had died.

NGO representative Do says the aid delivery is apparently a way for China to show support for the deceased leader's successor, his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

Do says past Chinese food aid was a humanitarian gesture, but this month's shipment was political, to strengthen the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang, and ensure North Korea's stability in the early days of the Kim Jong Un era.

International relief agencies, including those of the United Nations, say North Korea needs substantial outside assistance to feed millions of people. The organizations say malnutrition among young people has been rising despite better harvests in recent years.

North Korea is one of the world's poorest countries. Famine in the mid-1990s is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.