South korea Abandons Flood Aid

South Korea said Tuesday it had abandoned efforts to send flood relief to North Korea after Pyongyang failed to respond to Seoul’s offer, amid disagreement over what kind of aid to send.

Despite high tensions, Seoul in August offered five billion won ($4.7 million) in aid to Pyongyang after dozens were killed or injured by a storm and torrential rain in the North in June and July.

But the South only offered to provide items such as quilts, medicine, instant noodles and nutritious meals for children despite the North’s request for rice, cement and equipment for reconstruction.

South Korea has been reluctant to ship rice or cement for fear it could be diverted to the military.

“Decisions have been made to end the (aid delivery) effort since there was no response from the North since then,” a spokeswoman for the South’s unification ministry, which is in charge of cross-border affairs, told AFP.

After decades of deforestation, the impoverished North Korea is particularly vulnerable to flooding. Its state media reported dozens of casualties, thousands homeless and large areas of farmland flooded.

The aid offer was Seoul’s first since Pyongyang’s deadly attack on a border island last November that left four South Koreans dead and further heightened tension.

Cross-border ties had been icy since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing one of its warships and killing 46 South Korean sailors in March 2010 — a charge the North has angrily denied.

The North was hit by a famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands and struggles to feed its 24 million people at the best of times.

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