Sunday, December 24, 2006

North Korea may face famine with aid cuts

North Korea may face famine because the international community halted aid to the impoverished communist country following Pyongyang's recent nuclear test, an American relief worker said.

"I think that it's very possible that North Korea will slide back to the famine condition of the 1990s," Tim Peters, a Seoul-based U.S. activist working [with Helping Hands Korea] to help North Korean refugees find asylum, said in a phone interview.

As many as 2 million North Koreans are believed to have died in the 1990s from food shortages caused by government mismanagement and the loss of aid from the Soviet Union after it collapsed.

Peters blamed the looming crisis on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, whose regime's missile and nuclear tests in recent months have further alienated the North, leading many countries to cut assistance.

South Korea, one of major donors to the North, also halted its regular government humanitarian aid after the North's missile launches in July, and vowed to comply with U.N. sanctions imposed against Pyongyang after its Oct. 9 nuclear test.

The North has already faced food shortages as massive floods in mid-July wiped out crops along with homes and roads. The actual scale of the destruction remains unknown.

[The Associated Press]

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