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Volume 450: debated on Thursday 12 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of (a) the recent flooding, (b) the cessation of food aid from the Republic of Korea on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; and what representations she has made to the United Nations on this situation. (92331)

Estimates vary between as few as 151 dead and as many as 54,700, but the very nature of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) makes it very difficult to make reliable assessments. It is believed that around 100,000 tonnes of food were destroyed by the floods. The Government of the Republic of Korea has agreed to supply this amount in aid.

The food problems of the DPRK arise not only from the decision by the Government of the Republic of Korea to suspend non-emergency food aid, but from lower domestic food production and from lower grain shipments from China. The World Food Programme has estimated that these factors together may cause a food deficit in the DPRK in 2006 of around 800,000 tonnes.

Whilst my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not made any representations to the UN, she discussed the matter with Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon when they met in June this year. On that occasion, she urged the Republic of Korea not to withdraw humanitarian assistance to the DPRK should they carry out their threat to test missiles, stressing her preference for a co-ordinated international response.