Despite Hunger, N. Korea Rejects US Food Aid

Pyongyang boots humanitarian groups ahead of rocket launch
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 18, 2009 6:48 AM CDT
US and South Korean Marines move to take their positions during a live fire drill in their joint military exercises at Rodriguez Range in Pocheon, South Korea, yesterday.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
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(Newser) – North Korea will reject future US food assistance and kicked out five groups distributing American aid, a move that could make an already precarious humanitarian situation even worse, reports the AP. Pyongyang gave no reason for refusing the aid, according to the State Department. North Korea faces chronic food shortages and has relied on outside aid to help feed its 23 million people since famine reportedly killed as many as 2 million in the 1990s.

The decision adds to mounting tension as Pyongyang plans a rocket launch next month that the Obama administration sees as a cover for a long-range missile test. South Korea's unification minister said today that he sees North Korea's rejection of US food aid as its "answer" to the international opposition to its plans to launch a rocket, and as a protest against joint US-South Korean military drills taking place now across South Korea.