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South Korea offers aid to North

South Korea offered North Korea its first food aid in nearly two years as part of a recent cautious rapprochement between the two neighbours.

world Updated: Oct 26, 2009 13:01 IST
DPA

South Korea on Monday offered North Korea its first food aid in nearly two years as part of a recent cautious rapprochement between the two neighbours.

South Korea made the offer through its Red Cross, which said it would send North Korea a small shipment consisting of 10,000 tons of corn, 20 tons of milk power and medicine.

The aid was being offered purely on humanitarian grounds and no further shipments were planned, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said.

If accepted, the food aid would be the first to be sent to the impoverished, communist North Korea since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took office in February last year.

Lee took a harder line toward the North than his liberal predecessors, halting aid and insisting it would be linked to Pyongyang's progress toward denuclearisation.

Before Lee came to office, South Korea had been among the largest of North Korea's donors. Every year, it shipped hundreds of thousands of tons of rice and fertiliser to its neighbour.

Already strained relations with Lee's government further deteriorated in the first half of this year as North Korea carried out its second nuclear test, a series of missile launches and made repeated threats against the South.

In August, however, Pyongyang made overtures to Seoul, including agreeing to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and relaxing restrictions on cross-border transport.