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WFP: N. Korea Could Face Further Food Shortage

FILE - Rice plants sprout from cracked, dry earth in Ryongchon-ri, North Korea, June 22, 2012.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned Wednesday North Korea could face further food shortages later this year if drought persists.

“The lack of water now could seriously affect the main crop season later this year, which represents 90 percent of food production," Zoie Jones, WFP’s communications officer in Rome, wrote in an e-mail to the VOA Korean service. "WFP is very concerned that if there is poor crop production this year, there will be a significant increase in malnutrition especially among children.”

The warning comes one day after the Pyongyang’s admission the country has been hit by drought conditions severe enough to impact crop yields.

“The worst drought in 100 years continues in the DPRK, causing great damage to its agricultural fields,” the North’s official media Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.

Last week, South Korea also warned the North’s food production is likely to fall this year because of the drought. If dry weather continues until early July, the communist country’s crop production could fall as much as 20 percent from last year, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a report.

Food aid

Jones said the U.N. agency is ready to provide aid to the North if the situation deteriorates.

“WFP is closely monitoring the situation and remains ready to assist if the situation worsens,” she said.

The U.N. food agency plans to extend current humanitarian work in the North that was to end at the end of this month. It needs $28 million more to continue the work until the end of the year.

Jones said the drought could complicate the agency’s effort to fund the extension.

“If the dry spell causes a spike in malnutrition then the funding situation will become even more critical,” she said.

On Thursday, China showed a willingness to help its ally overcome the hardship.

“China is willing to provide the aid that is needed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Lu Kang, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

The United States said it has no plan to provide humanitarian aid to the North.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people. The United States has no plans to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea at this time, nor has North Korea requested U.S. assistance,” said a State Department spokesperson.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.