Korea: Famine, Fear and Fizzled Nukes

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March 29, 2007: North Korea is starving again, big time. The North Korean government has now admitted it, and says it will need at least a million tons of food in the next year, to feed its 23 million people. That's about 20 percent of total food needs. In the last few years, North Korea has been shutting down food aid programs by the UN and other foreign NGOs, largely in response to demands that distribution of food to the needy be monitored. Meanwhile, food donations to North Korea have shrunk because of mounting evidence that much of the food was diverted to the military or sold to raise cash. The UN is asking food donor nations to ignore past North Korean misbehavior, and to resume giving in the hope that some of the food would reach the starving North Koreans.

March 28, 2007: The U.S. has been unable to transfer the frozen $25 million from a Macao back to one in China's capital (which has North Korean accounts), because no bank wants to risk getting caught in further banking crackdowns against North Korea. Even the personal appearance of a senior U.S. banking official has not convinced Chinese bankers, yet. North Korean wants that money before it will shut down its nuclear reactor. However, it has also been agreed that the $25 million will be used for "humanitarian purposes."

March 27, 2007: South Korea resumed economic aid to the north by sending 6,500 tons of fertilizer, by ship. However, food shipments will not be resumed until North Koreas nuclear reactor is shut down in mid April.

March 25, 2007: U.S. intelligence analysts believe that North Koreas nuclear test was a failure, and that North Korea does not have a working nuclear weapon design.

March 21, 2007: North Korea has agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor (which produces the plutonium required for nuclear weapons) by mid April, as long as it receives $25 million frozen in a Macao bank since 2005, and 50,000 tons of fuel oil.

 

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