The United Nations said Thursday that it is negotiating with North Korea after receiving a letter from Pyongyang claiming that aid is ineffective and has been “politicized by hostile forces,” Deutsche Welle reported.
North Korea is currently facing widespread food shortages and is dependent on foreign aid to feed its population. According to UN estimates, 10.3 million people, almost half the country’s population, are in need and some 41% of North Koreans are undernourished.
Despite this, the letter from a North Korean official said that by the end of 2019 the number of international staff for the UN Development Program must be cut, along with staff at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
A UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said the UN and other international organizations reached over 2 million people in North Korea with humanitarian aid in 2018 with food, nutrition and health projects.
“UN operations already have a light footprint on the ground and continued capacity at current levels is vital for ensuring continued UN support for critical food security, water, nutrition programming as well as mobilizing resources,” he said.
Pyongyang claimed that “scope and amount” of UN intervention has run “dramatically low. In recent years, UN support in the country has been substantially downsized and the delivery of supplies been further delayed, heavily impacting the overall implementation of UN projects.”
The letter specified that Pyongyang wants UN development staff to be cut from six to at least two, WHO staff to be cut down to four and UNICEF staff to reduce its staff from 13 to 11.
North Korea was hit by three sets of economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons program in 2017. However, the UN allowed exemptions for goods linked to humanitarian aid.