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N. Korea's rice reserves may total 1.1 mln tons: source

All Headlines 21:15 September 28, 2010

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's rice reserves may total 1.1 million tons, which could feed the country for 110 days, a government source said Tuesday.

The source, who declined to be identified, said the estimate is based on continuous monitoring of rice stockpiles by the intelligence agencies in South Korea and the United States.

He said that while the total amount can be determined, it is hard to say if the rice is being reserved for the military or for the general population.

"Due to the nature of modern warfare it is pointless to separate if rice reserve will be used by the military or the civilian population in emergency situations," the official said. He also declined to say if Pyongyang maintained 300 storage areas as claimed by some independent organizations.

Related to the rice reserve that North Korea may possess, an official from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) claimed in a meeting of lawmakers earlier in the day that recent remarks by Rep. Kim Moo-sung, who said Pyongyang held 1 million tons in rice reserves for the military, was not groundless.

Kim is the floor leader of the ruling Grand National Party and made the remark to point out that the North had the means to alleviate food shortages on its own to a certain extent.

The NIS official added that rice aid to North Korea must be based on clear cut strategies reflecting overall circumstances.

The Lee Myung-bak administration put the breaks on helping North Korea after a South Korean tourist was shot dead in a mountain resort in July 2008. The sinking of a South Korea Navy ship March further cooled inter-Korean relations with Seoul, making clear that it will effectively cut most exchange programs with the North.

Before 2008, Seoul regularly shipped 300,000-400,000 tons of rice to the North along with substantial amounts of fertilizers.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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