N. Korea: Starving For Missiles

An image of North Korean children starving after years of famine touches the heart, but the reality of North Korea is touching off fears around Asia, reports CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen.

The hard-line Communist regime already has missiles that can attack Tokyo, and now it's threatening to test-launch a new model with a reported range as far as Alaska and Hawaii. By some accounts the North is developing a version that could strike the very heart of America.

North Korea is spending millions for missile development despite the famine.

Keiichire Asao, a member of Japan's parliament, says "They have this philosophy of military first, and I think the regime doesn't really care about starving babies."

Who's helping pay for the missile program? The very people targeted by the missiles: the Japanese. They love to play a pinball game called pachinko. It's a national pastime and pachinko parlors can be found all over Japan. About one third are owned by Koreans sympathetic to the North.

Skimming profits in this high cash-flow business, say experts, means half a billion dollars a year flows from Japan to the North Korean government.

But in protest against the missile program, the Japanese government has stopped all famine relief to North Korea. World Food Program director Catherine Bertini came from North Korea to Tokyo Friday to urge Japanese officials to re-start the aid.

"Because the alternative is that the children starve," says Bertini, "and that is not an exceptional alternative Â… I don't think there's one person in this world who would be happy to watch a five-year-old starve to death."

The people who don't seem to care are North Korea's leaders. They're more than willing to watch their children waste away as long as they can keep pursuing their ambitious missile program.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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