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N. Korea deplores scale of S. Korea's planned rice aid

All Headlines 16:24 September 19, 2010

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea lamented Sunday over South Korea's plan to send 5,000 tons of rice through the Red Cross to help the communist state recover from floods, saying the amount is too small to feed the country's people "even for a day."

On Monday last week, the South's Red Cross announced it will send North Korea 10 billion won (US$8.6 million) in flood aid that includes rice and cement, both heavily financed by the Seoul government.

Red Cross chief Yoo Chong-ha said the rice aid will be enough to feed 200,000 people for 50 days and will go to the town of Sinuiju near China, a region hit hard by downpours last month.

The gesture came after about two and a half years of suspension of rice aid from the South Korean government to the North, signaling a thaw in the chilled cross-border relations.

"After the lid was removed from the box of aid, there was only 5,000 tons of rice in it," said the Tongil Sinbo, a weekly government mouthpiece released through the North's official Web site at http://www.uriminzokkiri.com.

"This makes (us) suspect the guts" of those providing aid, it said. The North's Red Cross officials said earlier this week that they will accept the aid, but the shipment has yet to be arranged. The North has a population of 23 million and has relied on handouts from outside to feed its people since the mid-1990s when natural disasters and a massive famine crippled its economy.

In 2006, 86.3 billion won worth of flood aid, including rice, was shipped from South Korea to North Korea, and 58.9 billion won was shipped the following year amid a detente in inter-Korean relations, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

On Friday, as a South Korean Red Cross delegation headed to the North to discuss reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the South allowed 203 tons of rice offered by a civilian relief group to be sent across the border in flood aid.

The signs of a thaw came after months of tension between the two countries, which have traded harsh words since the South blamed the North in May for the deadly sinking of one of its warships.

Pyongyang denies any role in the March sinking that killed 46 South Korean sailors. But Seoul remains intent on making the North acknowledge its involvement, calling it a key condition to resuming reconciliation efforts between the countries.

The sides remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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