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US Flood Relief for North Korea Broadens

The United States says it will send $900,000 worth of flood relief to North Korea. This comes after severe storms caused damage throughout the Korean peninsula. Some analysts say Washington’s decision to dispatch aid is a good starting point for better relations with Pyongyang.

Washington says its aid to the north will include plastic sheeting, tents and other emergency supplies, but no food.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday details of the aid are being discussed between American officials and North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York.

The extent of the damage caused by the storms is unclear. Through its official media, Pyongyang says that 8,000 people have been left homeless and many hectares of farmland were destroyed.

Analysts say that because of North Korea’s chronic food shortages and general economic difficulties, Washington’s aid will benefit flooding victims.

“Nine hundred thousand dollars is not big enough, but it is good for not only the United States but also South Korea,” said Yoo Seung-Yeol, an analyst at the government-funded Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul.

Yoo says providing aid to North Korea could facilitate other discussions with Pyongyang, including its nuclear weapons program.

The north’s official news agency reported Friday that Pyongyang has agreed to open talks with the United States on another pressing issue, the return of remains of American soldiers held prisoner during the Korea War, which ended 58 years ago.

Yoo says it is too early to draw a link between flood relief and the POW’s, but it is a sign that both sides are eager to open up negotiations.

“Starting with the POW issue is a good pretext to have this kind of dialogue between North Korea and the United States. The United States is very anxious to have POW talks with North Korea, so that’s the beginning,” he said.

Yoo adds that North Korea may eventually ask to hold talks on a permanent peace treaty with the United States, or to discuss the removal of American forces from South Korea. He says that is when the really tough negotiations will begin.