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South Korea's Red Cross to Send Aid to Flood-Stricken North


South Korea's Red Cross says it will send more than $8 million worth of flood relief aid to North Korea. It also is considering Pyongyang's offer to resume bringing together long-separated families on the Korean peninsula.

Five thousand tons of rice and 10,000 tons of cement will go to North Korea to help the impoverished country after recent flooding.

The president of South Korea's Red Cross, Yoo Chong-ha, says Pyongyang's request for heavy equipment has been deferred.

Yoo explains that the size of the heavy equipment is problematic and it is outside the scope of a humanitarian request, so it will be up to the South Korean government to consider whether to send it.

North Korea's Red Cross requested the aid earlier this month. It also proposed resuming reunions of families separated by the demilitarized zone between the two countries. South Korea is considering the request.

The aid package and the reunions are the latest signs of a possible thaw in inter-Korean tensions. There have been 17 reunions, but the last was a year ago.

Yoo says his organization would like to hold the next reunion as quickly as possible.

He says it is not possible to organize a reunion in time for next week's Korean Thanksgiving holiday, but the Red Cross expects it will happen in October.

Thousands of Korean families have been separated since the two countries fought a war in the early 1950s. Travel across the border is not allowed and letters can not be sent. But the separated relatives now are elderly and there is a fear that most will not live to see lost children, siblings and spouses.

A renewed chill was cast over the peninsula following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. Seoul, Washington and others blamed a North Korean torpedo for the sinking, in which 46 sailors died. Pyongyang denies responsibility.

South Korea's Defense Ministry Monday released the full report into the sinking of the Cheonan as an attempt to quell skepticism about the cause.

Yoon Deok Yong, who led the investigation team, says the release of the complete report should counter those who have been spreading what the ministry terms "groundless rumors" about the incident.

Yoon says the report contains a solemn warning to North Korea and the world that any secret attacks leave evidence and Pyongyang should not engage in further military provocations.

Regional political analysts say the conciliatory gestures Seoul and Pyongyang have made in recent weeks signal a desire by both to ease the tension. There is also a flurry of diplomatic activity, apparently intended to break the deadlock on negotiations about North Korea's nuclear program.

A senior American envoy, Stephen Bosworth, held talks Monday with his South Korean counterparts. Bosworth also visits Tokyo and Beijing this week to discuss resuming the nuclear talks, which involve both Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

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