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Report: U.N. food aid to North Korea stalling under restrictions

International food assistance to North Korea may not be reaching women and children amid the pandemic, according to a South Korean press report Tuesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
International food assistance to North Korea may not be reaching women and children amid the pandemic, according to a South Korean press report Tuesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Food aid for North Korean children and pregnant women is being delayed due to an ongoing border closure, according to a South Korean press report.

Newsis reported Tuesday that a source at Seoul's unification ministry said the food assistance from the United Nations' World Food Program is not reaching North Korea's most vulnerable population amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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North Korea admits goods across its 880-mile border with China, but in the wake of COVID-19 ,the regime shut its borders. Trade dropped significantly with China in 2020, or by about 80%, according to Seoul's Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

On Tuesday, Newsis' ministry source said WFP food assistance must take place in accordance with international standards. U.N. officials need access to the country for monitoring purposes, but North Korean restrictions against foreign officers is preventing aid from being tracked, the South Korean source said.

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Report of hindrances to food assistance comes after the WFP released a revision to its North Korea Strategic Plan.

"WFP will opportunistically use windows in which food imports are allowed to replenish and optimize in-country stocks and mitigate against import delays," the report read. "However, there is a significant residual risk that, should food imports not be possible, operations will cease in 2021."

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The WFP report also said physical monitoring access "remain curtailed" indefinitely due to North Korean measures against the coronavirus.

RELATED Report: North Korea's trade with China declined 80% in 2020

While a significant number of North Korean children and women are at risk of malnutrition, the Kim Jong Un regime has not stopped using cyberattacks to steal millions of dollars to expand its weapons facilities.

Bloomberg reported Sunday that a Nigerian social media celebrity with millions of followers on Instagram has been extradited from Dubai and faces charges in the United States.

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, who frequently posed before private jets and luxury vehicles, is accused of laundering funds on behalf of North Korean hackers who stole more than $1.3 billion of cash and cryptocurrency, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Abbas was arrested in July, according to the report.

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