updated 3/24/2011 2:56:35 PM ET 2011-03-24T18:56:35

The United Nations says more than 6 million North Koreans are in urgent need of international food assistance.

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The world body reported Thursday that North Korea has suffered a series of shocks including summer floods and then a harsh winter, "leaving the country highly vulnerable to a food crisis."

It said the worst affected include children, women and the elderly, and recommended providing 430,000 metric tons of aid.

The report was based on an assessment conducted in February and March by agencies including the World Food Program at North Korea's request.

The United States is considering resuming food aid to the North, which has continued to advance its nuclear programs despite its chronic problems in feeding its people.

In other developments, U.S. government officials say former President Jimmy Carter is planning to travel to North Korea soon, possibly early next month.

Spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday the State Department had been "made aware of the trip" but had no further details.

He referred further questions to the Carter Center, which declined to comment.

Carter, who was president from 1977-81, is well-regarded in North Korea despite the longtime animosity between the U.S. and the secretive communist government.

He has visited several times in a private capacity, most recently last August, to secure the release of an imprisoned American.

Multination disarmament talks with North Korea have been on hold for the past two years amid growing concerns over the North's nuclear programs.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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