Japan will resume food aid to famine-hit North Korea after a 15-month hiatus, the Cabinet said Oct. 9, announcing that 67,000 tons of rice as well as 94 million yen in medical equipment will be handed over.Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka said Japan will donate $27 million to the United Nations World Food Program, which will use the money to buy the rice from the Tokyo government. Japan will also donate 1.1 million Swiss francs, or about 94 million yen, to the International Red Cross Society, which will use the money to buy medical equipment, the top government spokesman said.The donations were decided upon on humanitarian grounds in reply to international appeals from the WFP and other U.N. organizations, Muraoka said. It will be the fifth time for Japan to send food aid to the famine-stricken country, according to the government.Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi said the decision was made from a humanitarian viewpoint.”But the conclusion of normalization negotiations on diplomatic ties is a prerequisite for economic cooperation with North Korea,” Obuchi said. “We have not changed that position.””But Japan, as a member of the international community, needs to play a positive role in international appeals as they are urgent and they are viewed as humanitarian aid,” he said. The WFP will use the money to buy 67,000 tons of excess rice from Japan to provide food for children and hospitals.Although an international appeal was made early this year, Japan had been reluctant to extend aid because of strong domestic opposition. Tokyo’s decision on the issue comes late in comparison to other contributors, such as the United States, South Korea and the European Union. The U.S. has provided $52 million and South Korea $26 million this year for food assistance to North Korea.

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