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North Korea says it is suffering worst drought in decades

In this May 6, 2019, photo, North Korea's Kaepoong town is seen behind a North Korean military guard post, bottom, from the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea. North Korea says it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades amid concern about a food crisis in the country. The official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday that an average of 54.4 millimeters (2.1 inches) of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year, the lowest level since 1982. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Wednesday it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades amid reports of severe food shortages.

The official Korean Central News Agency said an average of 54.4 millimeters (2.1 inches) of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year. It said that is the lowest level since 1982, when North Korea received 51.2 millimeters (2 inches) of rain on average during the same period.

The report came after U.N. food agencies said in a joint assessment earlier this month that about 10 million people in North Korea were facing “severe food shortages” after the country had one of the worst harvests in a decade.

In February, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, issued an unusual appeal for urgent food assistance.

North Korean officials have blamed the food shortage on bad weather and international economic sanctions that were toughened after the country conducted a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests in recent years.

In a high-stakes summit in Vietnam in February, President Donald Trump rejected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s call for an easing of the sanctions in return for dismantling his main nuclear complex, a partial disarmament step.

KCNA said the drought is expected to continue until the end of May. North Korea’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported Wednesday that officials and workers are attempting to find new water sources and mobilize pumps and irrigation equipment to minimize the damage to agriculture.

North Korea suffered a devastating famine in the mid-1990s that is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

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