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South Korea, US Announce Flood Aid For North Korea


South Korea has announced a multi-million dollar aid package for North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of people are suffering because of floods. The United States has also pledged to send help. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from Seoul.

South Korea says it will send more than $7 million worth of emergency supplies such as blankets, medicine, drinking water and instant noodles to North Korea.

South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung calls damage from recent North Korean flooding "heartbreaking." He told reporters Friday Seoul made its decision to help on grounds of "humanitarianism and brotherly love." He says officials from the two Koreas are discussing land and sea routes to get the supplies to affected areas as quickly as possible.

The United Nations says weeks of steady rain in North Korea has submerged about 70 percent of the country's arable land, and destroyed half of the country's health clinics.

The U.N. World Food Program is organizing emergency rations for those affected by the flooding, and has expressed concern about the broader damage to agriculture. Even in a good year, the WFP says North Korea's harvest falls about one million tons short of what its citizens need.

North Korean media, which usually offer only a steady stream of government propaganda, have broadcast frequent updates on the flooding.

Speaking over video of an eroded railroad, a North Korean television announcer says many rail beds are splitting, making rail travel impossible. She says authorities cannot tell when rail operation will resume.

Flooding is a frequent problem in North Korea, where impoverished residents have stripped most mountains bare of anything that can be eaten or burned for fuel. The resulting erosion means even minor rains can lead to serious damage.

The United States is donating $100,000 to international agencies to purchase more relief supplies for the North.

Despite the floods, North Korean diplomats met with officials from China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Russia in Shenyang, China, on Friday. They are discussing the next steps toward ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The senior U.S. diplomat at the meeting, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said there is a lot more to discuss before the parties reach an understanding about all of North Korea's nuclear facilities and how it will dismantle them.

Pyongyang has agreed to give up its nuclear programs in return for aid and diplomatic benefits.

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