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North Korean cannibalism fears amid claims starving people forced to desperate measures

The reports come as sanctions against the country are tightened against the backdrop of angry rhetoric over missile testing

Reports from inside the secretive famine-hit pariah state, North Korea, claim a man has been executed after murdering his two children for food.

The grim suggestion that North Koreans are turning to cannibalism were reported by the Asia Press, and published in the Sunday Times.

They claim a 'hidden famine' in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae has killed 10,000 people, and there are fears that cannibalism is spreading throughout the country.

The reports come as sanctions are tightened against the backdrop of angry rhetoric over missile testing.

In one particularly disturbing report, a man was said to have dug up his grandchild's corpse. Other lurid reports included the suggestion that some men boiled their children before eating them.

Asia Press is a specialist news agency based in Osaka, Japan, which claims to have recruited a network of "citizen journalists" inside North Korea. The reports are considered credible.

Interviews have led Asia Press to conclude that more than 10,000 people have probably died in North and South Hwanghae provinces, south of Pyongyang, the capital.

North Korea has not confirmed or denied any reports of the deaths.

One informant, based in South Hwanghae, said: "In my village in May, a man who killed his own two children and tried to eat them was executed by a firing squad.

"While his wife was away on business he killed his eldest daughter and, because his son saw what he had done, he killed his son as well. When the wife came home, he offered her food, saying: 'We have meat.'

"But his wife, suspicious, notified the Ministry of Public Security, which led to the discovery of part of their children's bodies under the eaves."

Jiro Ishimaru, from Asia Press said: 'Particularly shocking were the numerous testimonies that hit us about cannibalism.'

Another of the citizen journalists, Gu Gwang-ho, said: "There was an incident when a man was arrested for digging up the grave of his grandchild and eating the remains."

A middle ranking official of the ruling Korean Workers Party said: "In a village in Chongdan county, a man who went mad with hunger boiled his own child, ate his flesh and was arrested"

A new UN agreement, passed on Tuesday, extended sanctions already imposed on North Korea after it held nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The current rise in tensions and extension of sanctions follows Pyonyang's defiant decision to push ahead with a long-range rocket launch on December 12 - insisting it was a peaceful mission to place a satellite in orbit.

Despite the insistence of the regime that the test was peaceful the rest of the world saw it as a banned ballistic missile test.

The United States, supported by Japan and South Korea, spearheaded the new UN resolution.

This week North Korea once again raised the level of rhetoric over sanctions, threatening war with its neighbours in the south saying: "If the South Korean puppet regime of traitors directly participates in the so-called UN 'sanctions', strong physical countermeasures would be taken," the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said.