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New Zealand Should Not Be Contributing To Malnutrition In North Korea

The New Zealand Government has self-righteously announced that it is sending an Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft to detect and deter actions such as North Korean ship-to-ship transfers of illicit material at sea. The ‘illicit material’ being referred to is oil.

The most charitable comment that can be made on this is to invoke Jesus’ words on the cross – forgive them for they know not what they do.

Contrary to the principles of its own Charter, a 2017 United Nations Security Council Resolution placed sanctions on export of oil and petroleum products to North Korea. This cut off 55% of refined petroleum products going to North Korea and placed an annual cap of two million barrels on all oil imports.

This amounts to 13 litres of oil per head of population per year – compared with the 1,470 litres consumed per head per year in New Zealand. No surprises that North Korean industry and agriculture cannot operate to capacity on 13 litres per head of population.

As a professional agriculturalist who has worked on food crop production in North Korea, I have seen first-hand how dependent the agricultural sector is on oil for fertiliser, cultivation and harvesting.

A 2018 FAO/WFP Joint Food Security Assessment for North Korea estimated that supply of diesel in 2018 was 30% less than the average for the previous five years.

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The knock-on effect of this reduced oil supply is a reduced food supply which in turn is resulting in malnutrition of the populace.

A Food and Agriculture Organisation report published last week states that around 42 percent of North Koreans have suffered from undernourishment over the past three years. Further, in an indication of chronic or recurrent malnutrition, around 1 in 5 children under the age of five in North Korea had suffered stunted growth as of the end of 2020.

This state of affairs is primarily attributable to the sanctions-induced unavailability of fuel to cultivate and harvest the rice, corn and potato crops.

In desperation, the North Korean government has resorted to all sorts of measures to obtain oil, including clandestine mid-ocean ship to ship transfers.

It is these transfers that our government has sent a surveillance aircraft to try and block – potentially thereby exacerbating starvation and stunting.

It is contrary to Kiwi values that our air force is deployed to carry out such an inhumane exercise.

The Orion and crew should be instructed to return to New Zealand immediately.


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