North Korea is so hungry that it has, for the moment at least, abandoned its trademark bluster and started begging foreign governments for food, the Washington Post reports. But the US, which was the largest provider of food aid to North Korea until it shut off shipments two years ago, “has no plans for any contributions at this time,” a top State Department official says. The UN World Food Program says it only has enough food to sustain the country for another month.
No one doubts that the North, which recently suffered a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, is starving. But experts believe the regime redirects 10% to 50% of food aid to the military or political favorites—or else sells it at a profit. It won’t allow inspectors in without seven days notice, and demands that they don’t speak Korean. One army defector says he once saw soldiers distribute rice to a village while an inspector watched, only to go door-to-door taking it back afterward. (Read more North Korea stories.)