The North Koreans “gave us all indications that they plan to meet our standards and work with us,” Mr. Beasley said.
North Korea has experienced chronic food shortages since the 1990s, although its grain production has improved in recent years. Last year, the World Food Program estimated that 10 million of the North’s 25 million people were undernourished, routinely short of essential proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
On average, North Korean teenagers are several inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts because of malnutrition, according to humanitarian groups. “No children should suffer the consequences of political decisions,” Mr. Beasley said.
During his visit, Mr. Beasley said, he saw men and women working in the fields with minimal farm machinery, toiling with their hands, hoes and shovels and using oxen to pull plows. He said “every inch” of arable land, up to the edges of roads and down embankments, seemed to be cultivated, as the mountainous, heavily sanctioned country struggled to produce food.
As Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, engages Washington in dialogue, he has promised to focus on developing his country’s economy. The American secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea have said that their governments are willing to help North Korea improve its agriculture and other industries if it gives up its nuclear weapons.