North Korea has been messing with nuclear weapons again. Many feel that the expulsion of Mercy Corps is in response to US criticism of the nuclear program. North Korea has also detained two US journalists accused of spying.
From the Reuters article written by Paul Eckert, we hear from Mercy Corps and their hopes to return to North Korea soon.
Amid tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and an expected missile launch next month, its reclusive government informed Washington last week of its decision not to accept more U.S. assistance, the State Department said.
North Korea said a 2008 protocol, which would have provided 500,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid over a 12-month period, was "no longer in effect," said Paul Majarowitz, director of Mercy Corps NGO Food Assistance Program in North Korea.
"We were given a letter by the North Korean government that asked us to close our field offices by March 20, and our main office by March 31, and have all of our staff and equipment out of the country by March 31," he said.
The expulsion covered only the food aid program, not the private aid agencies themselves, Majarowitz added.
"We're complying with that request and, at the same time, we're negotiating with them, trying to see if there is an avenue to restart or to resume the program," he said in remarks at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.
U.N. investigator Vitit Muntarbhorn told the world body's Human Rights Council last week the situation in North Korea was "dire and desperate". Authorities were moving to close all markets on which many people rely for food, he said.
North Korean authorities were also apparently planning to ban small-lot, or "kitchen" farming, which had been vital for the survival of much of the population, while army personnel were forcing farmers to provide them food, Muntarbhorn said.