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N.K. asks China for massive rice aid
North Korea recently asked China to provide massive rice aid for its hungry people amid a flare-up in tensions with South Korea, a news report said Friday.

Pyongyang has also decided not to request rice and fertilizer aid from South Korea until Seoul moves to improve ties, the report by the vernacular daily Hankyoreh said.

It cited a diplomatic source who is well informed about North Korea-China relations and an unnamed South Korean official who recently returned from a trip to Pyongyang.

Seoul's Foreign Ministry said it did not hear of such a request.

The report came a day after North Korea threatened to cut off dialogue with South Korea, claiming the peninsula is on the brink of another war. "North Korea has recently requested massive rice aid from China, which means the North has no intent to make a request for rice and fertilizer aid from South Korea for the time being," the report said, quoting the diplomatic source.

But Beijing has yet to respond to Pyongyang's request, the report said.

It also quoted the South Korean official as saying that a North Korean official from the Workers' Party Unification Front Department that he met during the trip defiantly said the North has no intention of requesting food and fertilizer aid from the South. The department is the North's top office on inter-Korean affairs.

South Korea is a key aid donor to North Korea, which has depended on outside aid to help feed its 23 million residents. The South has annually shipped 300,000 to 500,000 tons of rice and fertilizer to North Korea in recent years. Seoul plans to send this year's shipment if Pyongyang makes a request.

The recent tension began last week when North Korea expelled all South Korean government officials from the joint industrial complex in Kaesong. The move came after South Korea's unification minister said it would be hard to expand the complex without North Korean progress on denuclearization.

The North has since fired a barrage of short-range missiles off its western coast and threatened to turn South Korea into "ashes" unless a top South Korean military official apologizes for his "hostile" remarks on the North.

In another development, a local aid group said Thursday North Korea recently decided to cut food rations in its capital Pyongyang for six months amid "hopelessly" bad food shortages across the country.
MGR Archive 6.4.2008
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