The head of the U.N. World Food Program on Apr. 1 called on Japan to provide food assistance to North Korea, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Catherine Bertini told Vice Foreign Minister Sadayuki Hayashi that the situation in North Korea is severe and asked Hayashi to extend contributions in response to an emergency appeal issued in February to alleviate the food shortage, the officials said. Hayashi said Tokyo will make a decision after the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs issues an appeal on the issue later this month, according to the officials.

South Korea and the United States have already agreed to provide food aid in response to the emergency appeal. Japan, however, is reluctant to do so, partly because of allegations about kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.

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