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EU team to visit N. Korea to assess food situation

All Headlines 11:30 June 06, 2011

SEOUL, June 6 (Yonhap) -- A team of European Union officials were to enter North Korea on Monday on a visit aimed at assessing food shortages in the impoverished communist nation, a source said.

The five-member team from the humanitarian aid department of the European Commission will stay in the North until June 17 to look into how serious the food shortages are there.

The team will be divided into two groups to reach as many areas in the North as possible.

Their trip comes after a group of U.S. officials completed a trip to the North on a similar mission last month.

North Korea, which has relied on outside assistance to feed its population of 24 million, has stepped up calls for food aid in recent months as its economic woes have deepened in the wake of sanctions for provocations, including last year's two deadly attacks on the South.

South Korea holds negative views on possible aid resumption to the North because it could undercut international pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs and take responsibility for last year's attacks.

Officials in Seoul have questioned the motives behind the North's calls for food aid, saying last year's harvests were better than the year before. They are also suspicious that the regime might be trying to stock up on food for use during massive celebrations on the 100th birthday of the North's late national founder, Kim Il-sung, next year.

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