In the News – UN: North Korea needs immediate food aid due to flood

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In the News – UN: North Korea needs immediate food aid due to flood 

UNITED NATIONS –  North Korea needs immediate food assistance after heavy rains killed scores of people and submerged vast swaths of farmland, a U.N. office said Thursday.

That assessment was released by the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang following visits to flood-stricken areas in North Korea earlier this week. Floods caused by two storm systems last month killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands homeless, according to the North’s state media.

The United States said it would consider a request for assistance but has not received one, and it was not aware of Pyongyang making such requests to other states.

“If requested, it would be something that that we would carefully evaluate but we are not at that point,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told a news conference in Washington Thursday.

The flooding, which occurred on the heels of a severe drought, renewed concerns about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. In June, the U.N. said two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people are coping with chronic food shortages.

Thursday’s U.N. report said torrential rains caused severe damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure and farms, affecting maize, soybean and rice fields. The worst-hit areas are Anju city and Songchon County in South Phyongan Province, as well as Chonnae County in Kangwon Province, where residents are in dire need of emergency food aid, it said.

Some 36,000 families in Anju do not have access to clean water; wells are contaminated due to overflow of pit latrines and open drainage, raising the risk of a diarrhea outbreak, the report said. A city official told The Associated Press earlier this week that it was the worst disaster in Anju’s history.

North Korean officials are asking for food, fuel, medicine, water and purification supplies, while farmers are requesting seeds and fertilizer for the next season, the U.N. said.

Aid groups have donated emergency supplies, including the British-based charity ShelterBox, which dispatched 270 tents to North Korea, according to Howard Chang, a spokesman for Rotary International, who provides funding to ShelterBox.

The U.S. government gave $900,000 in relief supplies for North Korea after deadly floods last year. A subsequent plan this year to send 240,000 tons in food aid in return for nuclear concessions was scuppered when North Korea tested a long-range rocket in April. Washington said that step undermined confidence that North Korea would stick to its agreement to allow proper monitoring of food distributions.

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In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

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In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

China asked Seoul to make sure that South Koreans stop engaging in “organized activities” there to help North Koreans escape if South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan was to be released. Kim was tortured during his 114 days in Chinese detention for helping North Korean refugees.

A senior diplomatic source here on Wednesday said China attempted to make Kim’s release contingent on South Korea putting a stop to activists’ help for North Korean defectors in the three northeastern Chinese provinces.

“China threatened not to release Kim unless Seoul promises to stop organized assistance for North Korean defectors, but the South Korean government declined,” the source added.

A senior South Korean government official confirmed the story.

China is worried about the activities of South Korean NGOs helping North Koreans in the provinces adjacent to North Korea. Chinese police fear that North Koreans could escape en masse if organized assistance increases.

There is also speculation that the North Korean regime has asked Beijing for help. After Seoul declined to meet its demand, China reportedly decided to deport Kim after a visit to Seoul last month by Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu.

Seoul has been seeking a consular agreement with Beijing to increase protection of South Korean citizens for a decade, but progress has been slow. According to the Foreign Ministry, talks kicked off in May 2002 and were convened on three more occasions — in January 2007, January 2010, and December 2011 — but the gap in opinions remains wide.

Seoul made consular agreements with the U.S. in 1963 and with Russia in 1992. A ministry official said, “Even if there’s no bilateral consular agreement with China, there won’t be any big problem if we stress the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which most countries including China and Korea are signatories.”

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In the News – UN Aid Workers Assess North Korea’s Flooded Regions

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In the News – UN Aid Workers Assess North Korea’s Flooded Regions

U.N. humanitarian agency says it has sent aid workers to two North Korean regions hit by severe floods to assess the need for relief supplies.

UNICEF spokesman Christopher de Bono said U.N. personnel based in North Korea left the capital, Pyongyang, on Tuesday to visit the flood-ravaged provinces of South Pyongan and Kangwon.

Week-long deluge

North Korea flooded provinces

Heavy rains have triggered deadly floods across much of North Korea since July 25. State media last reported a death toll of 88 people on Saturday. There was no immediate word on casualties from downpours on Sunday and Monday.

North Korea said the floods also have left tens of thousands of people homeless and caused widespread damage to farmland. It has not made any formal requests for foreign assistance.

Government pledges reconstruction

In a report Tuesday, Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA said Premier Choe Yong Rim visited several hard-hit towns, consoling residents and promising government support for reconstruction. It says he also called for planting more trees to prevent soil erosion. Many parts of North Korea have become prone to flooding because of deforestation.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said that Washington continues to be concerned about the North Korean people, but has no plans to make its own assessment of the impact of the floods. She said the United States does not link the provision of humanitarian assistance to political or security issues.

A recent U.N. report said two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people face chronic food shortages. Analysts say the latest flooding could make matters worse, since it came at the end of a drought.

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In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

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In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea “can’t have” the status of a nation possessing nuclear weapons, South Korea said Thursday, responding to a report that North Korea recently revised its constitution to proclaim itself as a nuclear-weapon state.

An official Web site run by North Korea and monitored by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday in Japan, carried the full text of the reclusive communist nation’s revised constitution that included the term “a nuclear-armed state.”

“At first, nuclear-weapon state status is in line with the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but North Korea itself has admitted that it is not a member of the NPT,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

North Korea backed out of the NPT in early 2003, right after the outbreak of the so-called second nuclear crisis in late 2002.

Cho called on North Korea to “implement its commitments and give up all nuclear weapons programs from the September 19 joint statement.”

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear programs in return for security guarantees and economic assistance from five nations participating in the six-party talks. But Pyongyang boycotted follow-up negotiations by making a series of unacceptable demands.

There are concerns that North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, may soon carry out a third nuclear test to make amends for the failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions following the two nuclear tests.

“As North Korea continues to ignore promises with the international community and breach international laws, it will only deepen its isolation,” Cho said.

The text of the North’s amended constitution reads that its late leader Kim Jong-il, who died last December, “has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation.” The revision was made during a parliamentary session in April.

The North’s previous constitution last revised on April 9, 2010 didn’t contain the term nuclear-armed state.

Some analysts in Seoul said the North Korean constitution’s proclamation of a “nuclear-armed state” is expected to cast further clouds over the prospects of resuming the long-stalled six-party talks that bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – AusAID On The Road In DPR Korea

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In the News – AusAID On The Road In DPR Korea

Australian aid officials recently went on a field mission to Wonsan, Hamhung and Nampo port to monitor Australian assistance to women and children through WFP in DPR Korea.

The mission visited a pediatric ward and a private household in Wonsan city before overseeing the arrival of Australian funded soya beans at Nampo port.

One third of all Korean children under 5 are suffering from under nutrition, mainly caused by insufficient food and lack of protein. Soya beans are a key ingredient for ‘Super Cereal Corn Soya Milk Blend’, which is distributed to children and pregnant and breastfeeding women to combat hunger.

The impact of AusAID’s contribution to the WFP’s operation ‘Emergency Assistance to Vulnerable groups in DPRK’ is significant, with almost 2.5 million children and women in DPRK benefitting from Australian support throughout the life of the operation. Australia has provided over US$7.5 million to WFP’s current DPRK operation.

 

Original article can be found here.

North Korea’s Embarrassing Rocket Launch

If you’ve kept up with the news at all, you may know about North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch. I know it’s been in the news quite a lot but I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what happened.

This past March, North Korea and the United States entered negotiations once again. The United States offered to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance if North Korea would “freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors.” This was big step both for North Korea and the U.S. because it meant that the North would possibly be giving up its biggest weapon and it also meant that the United States would be sending food aid to the impoverished country for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time North Korea and the U.S. had official talks since Kim Jong Un came to power. Thus, these negotiations had a lot of meaning because it would have determined DPRK’s future relationship with the United States. Continue reading