North Korea requests more farm aid from South
SEOUL, Apr 10 (Reuters) North Korea, which has shunned help from international aid agencies despite battling chronic food shortages, has requested 300,000 tonnes of fertiliser from South Korea for the sowing season, Seoul said today.
Last year, North Korea said it no longer needed food aid from agencies such as the UN World Food Programme, a move analysts said was aimed at curbing a foreign presence the government saw as intrusive.
The North receives food aid from China and the South, which provide fertiliser and staples such as rice with far fewer checks and conditions than agencies such as the WFP.
The impoverished communist state does not produce enough food on its own to feed its population of about 23 million.
North Korea's Red Cross issued the request for fertiliser aid, South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a statement. It made a similar request about two months ago.
South Korea has already sent 150,000 tonnes of fertiliser this year to the North, in addition to the 450,000 tones sent last year.
The South has yet to decide whether to grant the request for the additional fertiliser, the ministry said.
South Korean officials have said the fertiliser aid is part of bilateral humanitarian assistance and not directly tied to progress in six-country talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes.
The chief envoys for the talks from the six countries -- the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- have been gathering in Tokyo, with most of them taking part in a private security forum.
Some bilateral meetings have taken place or are expected, although the South has warned against optimism for a breakthrough in kick-starting the stalled multilateral talks.
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