Four in 10 North Koreans are chronically short of food and further cuts to already minimal rations are expected after the worst harvest in a decade, the United Nations says.
Official rations are down to 300g per person per day, the lowest ever for this time of year, the UN said following a food security assessment it carried out at Pyongyang's request from March 29 to April 12.
It found that 10.1 million people were suffering from severe food insecurity, "meaning they do not have enough food till the next harvest," UN World Food Programme spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.
North Korea's population is about 25.2 million.
Verhoosel said the word "famine" was not being used in the current crisis, but it might come to that in a few months or years. The country suffered a famine in the mid-1990s believed to have killed up to three million people.
For its assessment the WFP, one of only a few aid agencies with access to the country, gained entry to farms, households, nurseries and distribution centres.
Verhoosel blamed a combination of dry spells, heatwaves and flooding for the new crisis, which the US State Department said was the government's fault.
After a second summit with US President Donald Trump failed to produce a deal to end their nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, North Korea's Kim Jong-un set a year-end deadline for Washington to show flexibility.
North Korea has for years relied on regular supplies of UN food aid.
Its agricultural output of 4.9 million tonnes was the lowest since 2008-2009, leading to a food deficit of 1.36 million tonnes in the 2018-2019 marketing year.
Australian Associated Press