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N. Korea's food situation is not serious: minister
SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Despite a recent U.N. report that a third of North Korea's young children are chronically malnourished, Seoul's point man on North Korea said Thursday that the North's food situation does not seem to be serious.

   Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told an annual parliamentary audit of his ministry in charge of relations with North Korea that the North's rice crop did appear to be falling a little short of the average. "I don't think (the food situation) is very serious," he said, without elaborating further or giving any figures.


Yu's assessment comes days after the U.N. World Food Program said a third of North Korean children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.

   Experts have said the North's food shortages may worsen after devastating floods washed away tens of thousands of hectares of farmland in the North in recent months.

   Yu said South Korea could give aid to North Korea if Pyongyang demonstrated its commitment to denuclearization, a key precondition by both Seoul and Washington for the resumption of long-stalled six-party talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

   The North has rejected the provisions for resuming the nuclear talks that also involve China, Russia and Japan.

   South Korea earlier this week withdrew a plan to provide emergency relief aid to North Korean flood victims, citing the absence of a response from the North to its offer.

   South Korea halted unconditional aid in 2008 and slapped sanctions on the North last year in retaliation for the sinking of a South Korean warship that was blamed on the North.

   The North has denied involvement in the sinking that killed 46 sailors, but also shelled a South Korean border island last November, killing four South Koreans.

   South Korea has continued to selectively approve humanitarian and medical assistance to North Korea from religious and private aid groups.