North Korea promises steps to break nuclear-deal impasse
Pyongyang says it will release thousands of documents, long sought US officials, relating to its Yongbyon nuclear facility.
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The chances of famine in North Korea have increased in line with the soaring price of rice on global markets, a Washington-based institute said on Wednesday.
"The country is in its most precarious situation since the end of the famine a decade ago," said a paper from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
[T[he findings [of a recent poll of North Korean refugees] reveal that 30 percent of the respondents reported having lost a family member to hunger and 40 percent were unaware of international food programs operating in the North, such as the United Nations World Food Programme's. 96 percent replied that they did not believe they had benefitted from the food programs, implying that aid has been diverted to the military.
The international community is tying aid to denuclearization, adding even more pressure on the isolated Pyongyong government, Reuters says.
The secretive nation has grown more dependent on rice imported from neighbouring China since a famine in the late 1990s that experts estimate killed at least 1 million people.
North Korea has in the past relied heavily on aid from China, South Korea and U.N. aid agencies to fill the gap.
But the new conservative government in South Korea has said it will tie aid to progress its neighbour makes in giving up development of nuclear weapons, on which Pyongyang is stalling.
The Bush administration is also turning up the pressure, even as it sits at the negotiating table. Mr. Bush recently alleged a Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in September matched North Korean design. AFP reports that
Bush said he did not initially tell Congress about the facility, which US officials say could have produced two nuclear bombs within a year of being completed, as he did not want to inflame regional tensions.
But national security officials briefed lawmakers last week, presenting intelligence they said showed Syria had been building a secret nuclear reactor for military ends with North Korean help -- an accusation Damascus denies.
Bush said the briefing was intended to advance "certain policy objectives."
"One would be to the North Koreans, to make it abundantly clear that we know more about them than they think," Bush said in the White House Rose Garden.