The United Nations' World Food Program has suspended food production at its factories in North Korea as it continues to discuss its future operations with North Korean officials, the agency said.
In a report on its Web site dated Friday, the WFP said food production at its 19 factories in the impoverished North was suspended this week in response to the communist nation's earlier demand that all aid shipments be halted by the end of the year.
The North has asked that emergency aid to the country be converted to development assistance, claiming that it wants to become self-sufficient and stop receiving outside handouts. However, aid officials have warned that the switch could leave many people hungry.
The WFP said it will continue negotiating with North Korean authorities on how to run its future programs there.
Food distribution and monitoring will be scaled down starting Nov. 30 until the end of the year, the agency said.
With cuts in cereal distribution, only about 3.6 million of the 6.5 million people the WFP feeds will be given aid this month, the organization said.
North Korea has relied on foreign aid to feed its 23 million people since the mid-1990s, when natural disasters and mismanagement caused its economy to collapse. Famine has killed as many as an estimated 2 million people, AP reported. V.A.