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N.K. has 1 million tons of rice stockpiled for war: lawmaker

North Korea, which claims to be in dire need of outside food aid to feed its starving people, has some 1 million tons of rice stockpiled at its military warehouses to prepare for potential war or for release on the 100th anniversary of its founder, a ruling party lawmaker here said Thursday.

Pyongyang has stored about 300,000 tons for its regular forces and another 700,000 tons for reserve forces, enough rice to feed its population of 24 million for more than 80 days, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Grand National Party claimed in a press release.

The claims by Seoul’s conservative ruling bloc over Pyongyang’s secret storage of food come as international charity groups have been increasing pressure on South Korea as well as other regional powers to resume their stalled aid to the impoverished regime.

Aid to North Korea had been steadily decreasing since the right wing Lee Myung-bak government took power in 2008 and came to a complete halt in November when North Korea bombarded a border island, killing four South Koreans.

South Korea and its ally Washington continue to express doubts over international agencies’ assessment of the food situation in the North based on its own statistics on harvest, rationing and rice-polishing.

Seoul currently only approves of civilian humanitarian aid and has said it has no immediate plans to resume aid on a government level.

Echoing the GNP floor leader’s similar claim last year about the food situation in the North, Rep. Yoon also claimed the communist country has also stored 1.5 million tons of oil and 1.7 million tons of ammunition.

“This is enough to continue war for at least 100 days,” the legislator said, claiming he checked the information with intelligence officials here.

North Korea is also “continuing to store away food” so it can be distributed on the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung, which falls on April 15 of next year, Yoon added.

Some have been suspecting Pyongyang will make special distributions to its people in 2012 as a way of winning approval over its controversial three-generation succession from the incumbent Kim Jong-il to his youngest son Jong-un. The late Kim is the father of the incumbent dictator.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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