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U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi urged Japan on July 2 to extend humanitarian emergency food aid to North Korea to ease its severe food shortage.

While saying that he does not intend to request that Japan offer aid, Akashi said he hopes Tokyo “will make a sound judgment.” Akashi was speaking at a news conference at the National Press Club in Tokyo. He visited North Korea last week.

He said many people consider the Japanese attitude over food aid to Pyongyang “rather strange” because a number of countries, including the United States, South Korea and the European Union, have pledged assistance. Tokyo has been reluctant to extend aid because of what officials call “humanitarian problems” with North Korea, such as allegations that Japanese citizens have been kidnapped by North Korean agents.

Akashi said he is often perplexed when officials of the U.N. World Food Program ask about Japan’s reluctance despite having 3 million tons of surplus rice on hand that will be thrown away a year from now. North Korea will have a food shortage of about 800,000 tons in October when new crops will be harvested, he said. The situation could worsen because the calculation assumes the harvest will be a rich one, he added.

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