World

North Korea says drought could worsen food shortages

NAMPHO, North Korea - North Korea is reporting a serious drought that could worsen critical food shortages, but help is unlikely to come from the United States and South Korea following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch.

North Korea has had little rain since April 27, with the country’s western coastal areas particularly hard hit, according to a government weather agency in Pyongyang. The dry spell threatened to damage crops, officials said, as the country enters a critical planting season and as food supplies from the last harvest dwindle.

In parts of South Phyongan Province, the sun-baked fields are parched and cracked, and farmers complained of extreme drought conditions.

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It was not clear whether the conditions around Nampho were representative of a wider region. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization said it had not yet visited the affected regions to confirm the extent and severity of the reported drought.

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North Korea has had chronic food shortages for the past two decades because of economic and agricultural mismanagement as well as natural disasters.

The country’s past appeals for food aid have been met with some skepticism, however, amid concerns that aid would be diverted to the military and Pyongyang elite without reaching the hungry.