SEOUL - NORTH Korea has purchased weapons worth about US$65 million (S$95 million) over the past five years despite its severe food shortages, a South Korean lawmaker said on Monday. The communist state spent an average of US$13 million a year on arms during the five-year tenure of Seoul's previous liberal administration which ended in early 2008, said Mr Kwon Young Se of the conservative ruling Grand National Party.
The weapons came from China, Russia, Germany, the Slovak Republic and other countries, Mr Kwon told reporters, citing a government report.
The South's intelligence agency and defence ministry refused to confirm the information. When contacted by AFP, Mr Kwon declined to say which agency his report was from.
'The report shows the North has developed its military capacity despite severe food shortages,' Mr Kwon told reporters, calling for more caution in providing aid to the impoverished country.
Previous liberal administrations in Seoul, which practised a 'sunshine' engagement policy, sent about 400,000 tons of food to the North every year but were accused of not demanding proper monitoring.
Critics say much of the food was used to feed the North's military and elite.
The North bitterly attacks the conservative government which came to power in South Korea in February. It did not ask for the food aid from Seoul this year.
In July the UN's World Food Programme warned that hunger in North Korea is at its worst since the famine years of the 1990s, with five to six million people in immediate need out of a population of 23 million. -- AFP