North begs for food from U.K., says report

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North begs for food from U.K., says report

North Korea’s parliamentary speaker appealed for food aid from Britain, saying his country is suffering from an acute food shortage, according to a U.S. radio report Saturday.

Choe Tae-bok, chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, visited Britain from March 28 to 31 on an invitation from the British-North Korea All-Party Parliamentary Group.

David Alton, a British lawmaker, said in an interview with the Voice of America that Choe had requested food aid when he met with British government officials.

Alton quoted Choe as telling British officials that the upcoming two months would be the most serious for North Korea to feed its people.

North Korea has suffered from a chronic shortage of food and energy due to years of isolation, mismanagement and natural disasters. The communist state has relied on international handouts since 1995 to help feed its more than 20 million people.

South Korea has suspended food aid to the North since the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak came to power in 2008 and linked denuclearization efforts by Pyongyang as preconditions to resume cross-border exchanges.

Responding to calls for civilian aid to be allowed, Seoul Thursday approved the first civilian humanitarian assistance to the North since November. The United Nations called for more than 430,000 tons of food aid to support the most vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women in North Korea.

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