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Friday, 6 October, 2000, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Japan boosts N Korea food aid
Protest
Some in Japan are opposed to closer ties with North Korea
The Japanese government says it has approved 500,000 tonnes of rice aid to help alleviate severe food shortages in North Korea.

A government spokesman, Hidenao Nakagawa, said the move had been taken in response to an appeal from the United Nations World Food Programme.

Food aid shipment
North Korea is desperate for food aid
He said the aid was designed to encourage North Korea to continue its efforts to promote reunification with South Korea and to normalise relations with Japan and other democratic countries.

"The purpose of the aid is to support the positive movement taking place in North Korea," Mr Nakagawa said.

Japan has no diplomatic ties with North Korea.

Millions threatened

North Korea is facing a sixth consecutive year of food shortages with aid agencies saying the on-going famine has already killed hundreds of thousands of people and continues to threaten millions.

Child
Famine has hit North Korean children particularly hard
A drought and two typhoons have worsened conditions in recent months.

The Japanese Government's announcement marks a five-fold increase in Tokyo's rice shipments to Pyongyang and will be the country's largest aid shipment to the North.

Tokyo suspended all aid in 1998 after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile over Japanese territory, but it began lifting sanctions late last year.

Food loan

The latest aid package prompted a protest by a small group of relatives of Japanese citizens who were allegedly kidnapped by North Korean agents 20 years ago.

Last week South Korea also announced that it had agreed to provide 500,000 tons of food grain in the form of a long-term loan to North Korea.

Seoul said North Korea had promised that international observers would be allowed to monitor the distribution of food amid accusations that previous aid deliveries have been diverted to feed the country's military, one of the largest armies in the world.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree 500,000 ton food loan
22 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea storms leave many dead
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea aid plea
13 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Pyongyang reaches out
22 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea urged to demilitarise
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kim Jong-il to go South 'in spring'
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas end propaganda war
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