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North Korea Welcomes US Offer of Food Aid

North Korea has welcomed a U.S. offer of food aid, saying the assistance will help ease its food shortage and help promote relations between the two foes.

A statement Saturday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency says the aid will, "to a certain extent," contribute to promoting understanding and confidence between people of the two countries.

The United States announced Friday that it will provide 500,000 tons of food aid to the Stalinist nation over the next year.

A statement by the U.S. Agency for International Development says the sides agreed on a framework that will allow the World Food Program and U.S. non-governmental agencies broad access to needy areas of North Korea.

The agency says the agreement will also allow organizations to effectively monitor the distribution of U.S. supplies.

North Korea is facing the threat of widespread hunger because of flood-related crop shortfalls.

The United States halted food aid to North Korea in 2005 because of concerns the assistance was being diverted to the North Korean military and political elite.

The United States has been the largest single provider of food aid to North Korea since that country's famine in the mid-1990s. Washington has said that the food aid issue is not related to talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.