UN leader Ban Ki-moon called on North Korea to be more open with UN agencies battling the country's food crisis, during a meeting with a Pyongyang minister, a UN spokesman said Thursday.
The UN secretary general, a South Korean, met Pak Gil-yon, the North's vice foreign minister, at the UN headquarters on Wednesday, said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
They discussed the food crisis and the standoff over the North's nuclear weapons program, the spokesman said.
Ban "emphasized the need for the DPRK (North Korea) to enhance its cooperation with UN agencies, including through improved access and monitoring," according to Nesirky.
About six million people, almost a third of the population, are suffering from food shortages and the government has severely cut back on daily rations, according to aid agencies.
But the secretive North Korean authorities severely limit the activities of UN and private aid agencies. Aid workers say this has improved slightly due to the current crisis.
"The secretary general discussed the food shortages and related humanitarian problems in the DPRK, particularly since the recent floods. He encouraged more donor commitment to meet humanitarian needs," Nesirky said.
Humanitarian support to North Korea has shrunk to a tenth of what it was 10 years ago, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.
The hardline state is under UN Security Council sanctions because of its nuclear weapons drive and relations with South Korea, once a major aid provider, have been tense in the past year.
"Noting the recent trends of improvement in the inter-Korean relations, the secretary general reiterated the importance that the nuclear issue and other outstanding matters be resolved through dialogue," Nesirky said.