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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
N Korea 'in urgent need of food'
A North Korean farmer with an ox-cart full walks down the road to Pyongyang, 13 February 2003.
The North is expected to call for more fertiliser
North Korea is in urgent need of more food aid, the UN has warned.

The head of the World Food Programme's North Korea mission told the BBC that without new contributions famine-like conditions would be likely to reappear.

The warning comes as North and South Koreans hold a second day of talks at which the North is expected to call for more aid and agricultural fertiliser.

Seoul says it has offered new proposals to Pyongyang to resume six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme.

The two sides are meeting for high-level discussions at Kaesong, just north of the border, for their first talks for 10 months.

No details on the incentives were given, but the BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul says they are expected to go beyond the economic aid and security guarantees offered almost a year ago.

He says South Korean officials also warned the North not to continue developing nuclear weapons.

Our correspondent says that Seoul believes Pyongyang is raising nuclear tensions to extract a better aid offer.

The North has declared itself a nuclear weapons state, and says it has extracted nuclear fuel to make more bombs.

Widespread malnutrition

The WFP has not had a fresh offer of food aid for North Korea since October 2004.
Food stall in Pyongyang
A looser economy means rising food prices

Richard Ragan says without new support the WFP will have to suspend aid altogether to about 3.5 million people and focus on a core 3m most at risk, including the elderly and infants.

The situation is already worrying, with malnutrition described as widespread, especially among children.

Market reforms introduced in North Korea in recent years mean most people only get about half the food they need through the state and have to buy the rest themselves.

But rampant inflation inside North Korea is making it increasingly difficult for people to make up that shortfall.

Japan, the US and South Korea are key contributors to the WFP programme, but Mr Ragan says donations have slowed in the last two years.

Warnings are issued as talks begin

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