National

Japan rice-monitoring team to be received by Pyongyang

Kyodo

North Korea will receive this week a Japanese government mission, originally scheduled for last week, to inspect distribution and use of rice donated since last year, informed sources said Monday.

Members of the inspection team, including Shigekazu Sato, deputy director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, are scheduled to apply for visas next Monday afternoon at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing and head for Pyongyang the following day, the sources said.

Ministry officials, however, are still coordinating flight arrangements as flights to Pyongyang Sept. 25 are fully booked, they said.

The inspection was postponed from last week when North Korean Embassy officials refused at the last minute last Tuesday to issue the visas. No reason was given for the refusal.

House of Representatives lawmakers Yasuhisa Shiozaki and Makoto Taki, members of the original mission, returned Wednesday to Japan from Beijing and are no longer slated to be part of the inspection team. They will be replaced by a Japanese Foreign Ministry official in Beijing and another from Tokyo.

Japan has been sending shipments of rice to North Korea since October, when it decided to donate 500,000 tons through the U.N. World Food Program. The organization has been appealing to the international community to provide food support to North Korea in light of its chronic food shortages and economic difficulties.