Japan has rejected UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's request that Tokyo provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea, on the ground that there is no guarantee the aid would reach the people in need of it, UN sources said on Tuesday.
Ban made the request during talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in New York on March 31, saying North Korea may see its food situation reach a critical stage in June and July, the sources said.
According to UN officials, North Korea's currency reform last November has brought a sharp fluctuation in prices and left small-scale businesses, which have supplemented the country's food distribution, with few reserves.
The redenomination of the North Korean won (NKW) (North Korea's currency) continues to affect the country's food situation negatively, the officials said, while UN funds for humanitarian assistance to North Korea may run out in the middle of 2010.
Ban apparently had in mind such situations when speaking to Okada.
The UN sources said that during their talks Ban sounded Okada out over the possibility of providing humanitarian assistance, such as food, to North Korea through the UN.
But Okada was quoted as telling Ban, "The issue of North Korea's abduction (of Japanese nationals) is yet to be resolved. The North Korean nuclear problem is also unresolved."
The foreign minister also said that if the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "sought to improve (the food situation), it would be possible to do so," according to the sources.
Ban took the remarks to mean that the regime "could use the money it spends on developing nuclear weapons or missiles for buying food" and "even if North Korea gets food aid, there is a high possibility it will go to people close to (Workers' Party of Korea) General Secretary Kim or the military."
North Korea's recent daily food distribution is at 400 grams for one person, the UN officials said.
Sources close to the UN Security Council said that not only the failure of the currency reform but also the sharp decrease in foreign currency earnings may be affecting North Korea's food situation.
The decrease in foreign currency income is a result of a UN Security Council resolution which imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2009, which is allegedly contributing to blocking North Korea's attempts to export weapons.