World Food Program fail to reach agreement with North Korea

The U.N. World Food Program has failed to reach an agreement with North Korea on continuing food distribution programs there, its director said Thursday. James Morris, the WFP executive director, said his agency will consider the results of his two days of talks in Pyongyang and plans to hold more discussions with North Korea over the next several weeks. North Korean officials told Morris they want the WFP to switch its focus to development aid after feeding millions of North Koreans over the past decade. However, aid officials have warned that the switch could leave many people hungry.

"The government there has concluded that they no longer need emergency humanitarian assistance," Morris told a news conference in Beijing.

Morris said North Korean officials want the WFP to reduce the size of its 32-member staff, which the WFP does not want to do. The two sides also failed to agree on conditions for the WFP to continue to monitor food distribution throughout the country.

North Korea has relied on outside handouts to feed its 23 million people after natural disasters and mismanagement caused its economy to collapse in the mid-1990s. Famine has killed an estimated 2 million people.

In recent years, the WFP has aimed to feed about 6 million of the North's 25 million people.

Washington, one of the North's biggest food donors, believes the impoverished nation still needs food aid, the U.S. State Department said earlier this month. But the department wants to ensure the donations are distributed by WFP. The North also is expelling private aid groups following a European Union-sponsored U.N. resolution criticizing the country's human rights record, reports the AP. I.L.

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