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North Korean media warns of famine ahead

A North Korean newspaper has warned citizens to prepare for economic hardships ahead as the rogue nation channels funding into its weapons program.

In an editorial published in state-controlled outlet Rodong Sinmun this week, a reference was made to a new "arduous march," the term given to the 1990s economic crisis and famine that killed over two million.

"The path to the revolution is never easy, we might have to go through Arduous March again—in which we only had to eat roots of the grass—and we might have to fight against our enemies all by one's self," the editorial said, according to a CNBC translation of the Korean text.

The article comes as the United Nations (U.N.) enforces tough new sanctions on the country in the aftermath of Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January, and a rocket launch in February. The new measures, passed on March 2, are more aggressive than previous U.N. resolutions and designed to cut off funds for Pyongyang's nuclear and other banned weapons program, the U.N. said.

"The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement following the U.N. resolution.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has often stated the country should be ready to use nuclear weapons "at any time" in the face of threat from its enemies, namely the U.S. and South Korea. Earlier this month, he said the country would soon carry out tests of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, according to local news reports.

Despite the editorial's dire warning, some experts believe the North Korean economy could hold up better than expected.

"There are plenty of nervous traders, but the DailyNK reports that [food and currency] market prices seem to be holding relatively steady. And thus far, there is no evidence of a slackening in trade," said Marcus Noland, executive vice president and director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in an official blog post this week.

"The March figures for China-DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] trade ought to be released next month, and might show some indication of declining trade, though even if sanctions were beginning to bite, it might not be evident in the March data," he added.

North Korea receives much of its food and energy supplies from China, which accounts for more than 70 percent of its total trade volume, the Council on Foreign Relations noted in February. In 2013, the reclusive country exported around $4.4 billion and had imports of around $5.2 billion, according to the CIA World Factbook.

—June Yoon contributed to this report.

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