The United States said Wednesday it has no plans to provide food aid to North Korea amid concern food shortages in the impoverished communist nation could significantly worsen due to what the country calls the worst drought in a century.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said earlier this week that the "worst drought in 100 years" is "causing great damage" to the country, adding that about 30 percent of rice paddies across the country are "parching up."
The report came days after the South's unification ministry forecast last week that the North's grain production will likely to drop by up to 20 percent this year from 2014 if a shortage of rainfall continues until early next month.
"I've seen the reports about the drought. I don't have any specific information about the validity of the drought," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a regular briefing in response to a question about the North's report.
Asked if the U.S. would consider providing food aid, Kirby said, "I'm not aware of any such plans. No."
North Korea has long relied on outside assistance to feed its 24 million people since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy. In recent years, however, the country's food situation is believed to have improved slightly due in part to agricultural reforms introducing capitalistic elements.
The U.S. had planned to provide food aid to the North under a 2012 agreement in which the North promised to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests. But the agreement fell apart a couple of months later as the North launched a long-range rocket in violation of the deal. (Yonhap)