European Union team to assess food for North

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European Union team to assess food for North

A team of European Union officials were to enter North Korea yesterday on a visit aimed at assessing food shortages in the impoverished nation, a source said.

The five-member team from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department will stay in the North until June 17 to look into how serious the food shortages are.

The team will be divided into two groups to reach as many areas in the North as possible.

Their trip comes after a group of U.S. officials completed a trip to the North on a similar mission last month.

North Korea, which has relied on outside assistance to feed its population of 24 million, has stepped up calls for food aid in recent months as its economic woes have deepened in the wake of sanctions after last year’s provocations against the South.

South Korea opposes resumption of food aid to the North because it could undercut international pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs and take responsibility for last year’s attacks.

Officials in Seoul have questioned the motives behind the North’s calls for food aid, saying last year’s harvests were better than the year before. They are also suspicious that the regime might be trying to stock up on food for the next year’s 100th birthday of the late founder Kim Il Sung.

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