“Increased food imports, commercial or through food aid, would be required during the next three months at the peak of the lean season, ensuring adequate food supply for the most vulnerable, including children and elders,” the agency said in a statement.
North Korea experienced chronic food shortages in the 1990s, when a famine caused by years of bad weather and economic mismanagement forced the country to issue a rare appeal for international help. By some estimates, more than a million people died in the famine.
The country has since allowed more market-oriented activities and encouraged trade with China to increase access to food. Its own food production has also improved in recent years. But humanitarian relief groups still call for donations, warning that shortages remain widespread.
But international donors have become increasingly reluctant to provide humanitarian aid in recent years, as North Korea has continued to test nuclear weapons and missiles in defiance of United Nations resolutions. In September, after the North’s fifth nuclear test, South Korea did not offer humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of flood victims in North Korea, saying that the country should divert the money spent on weapons to buy food for its people.
President Park Geun-hye took a hard-line stance on the North, but under President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who took office in May, the South Korean government has indicated it will be readier to consider humanitarian aid.
But North Korea did not appear to be helping itself. It has not responded to the South Korean proposal on Monday that the two sides hold military and humanitarian talks on the border to discuss easing tensions.
The South’s Defense Ministry had wanted to hold a military dialogue with the North on Friday. After receiving no response, it said it was willing to wait for several more days.
North Korea has not yet reported any damage from the drought. Instead, its main state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, urged the country on Friday to produce more goods locally, especially raw materials and fuel, to overcome what it called “barbaric” international sanctions pushed by the United States.
In a separate commentary, the newspaper criticized Washington’s efforts to pressure China to use its economic leverage to force the North to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
The American tactic will never break the Communist neighbors’ “friendly ties sealed in blood,” it said, referring to when China and North Korea joined to fight the Americans during the 1950-53 Korean War. The newspaper also warned that the Chinese would gain little if they succumbed to pressure from the United States and hurt their neighbor.
Despite United Nations sanctions, North Korea’s external trade grew by an estimated 4.7 percent to $6.55 billion last year, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, a government-invested organization in South Korea, said on Friday.
North Korea’s trade with China grew 6.1 percent to $6 billion last year, the agency said. China accounts for more than 90 percent of the North’s external trade.
Also on Friday, South Korea’s central bank, the Bank of Korea, said that the North Korean economy grew by about 3.9 percent last year. That was the highest annual growth rate the Bank of Korea has reported for the North in 17 years and was another indication that the economy there has been growing under its leader, Kim Jong-un.
Economists caution that it is difficult to offer reliable economic growth estimates for North Korea because it does not release its economic data. Analysts have often said the central bank’s estimates on North Korean economic growth are too conservative.
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