The aid pipeline on which six million to eight million people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) depend is drying up, a United Nations envoy who just returned from that country warned today.
"There is an urgent need to keep that pipeline flowing," Maurice Strong, Adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York. Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Strong briefed the Secretary-General on his recent mission to Pyongyang, which focused on the humanitarian side, although discussions were also held on the nuclear issue, which Mr. Strong said was closely linked.
"I am primarily reflecting the information that [UN officials] gave me on the spot and their concerns," Mr. Strong said, adding that his own field trip to a children's hospital and children's centres, and seeing the state of those youngsters and how dependent they were, proved "that this is a real crisis."
Mr. Strong noted that for the first quarter of this year, some 97,000 tons of food aid is urgently needed and that the UN's appeal for $215 million for emergency operations for the rest of the year has been met with just a "meagre response."
Turning to the DPRK's announced intention to reactivate its nuclear programme, Mr. Strong said the authorities in Pyongyang told him that they would regard punitive actions by the UN Security Council as "a declaration or act of war."
As for the suspension of humanitarian aid by some countries, Mr. Strong said some donors have cited the current political and nuclear crisis as a reason for stopping their assistance. "That crisis does make it more difficult to get donors to move," he said. "It's not just a matter of political conditions, the North Koreans say as much as they need - and they clearly need - humanitarian assistance, they cannot and will not accept it if it is attached to political conditions."