South Korea has halted shipments of flood aid to North Korea in the aftermath of the lethal shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea a day earlier, the Unification Ministry said Wednesday.
The aid, delivered via the Red Cross but heavily financed by the Seoul government, was promised in September after North Korea had been battered by heavy rains.
|Houses on Yeonpyeong Island are seen to be severely damaged by the artillery attacks of North Korea on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)|
Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said that 5,000 tons of rice, 3 million packs of instant noodles and 3,000 tons of cement have been delivered to the North Korean town of Sinuiju bordering China as of Wednesday.
Seoul’s move will stop the planned delivery of 7,000 tons of cement and medical supplies worth 580 million won ($500,000), the ministry said.
South Korea’s suspension of aid is intended to signal its deep displeasure over North Korea’s artillery attacks on the border island on Tuesday that claimed the lives of at least two marines amid a flurry of condemnations by South Korea’s allies around the world.
Seoul has long provided humanitarian aid to Pyongyang despite criticism about its effect in brining peace to the Korean Peninsula.
About 100 North Korean artillery shells rained down on Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday afternoon, setting houses ablaze and people running for emergency shelters. The billowing plumes of black smoke and intermittent blasting sound of shells hitting the island were broadcast on local TV stations on Tuesday, stunning South Korean citizens and prompting government officials here to scramble to come up with countermeasures.
Pyongyang’s incitement in the longstanding flash point between the two Koreas is the first direct artillery attack on South Korean territory since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953.
In March, a suspected North Korean torpedo attack sank South Korea’s warship, the Cheonan, in the clash-prone area, claiming 46 sailors and heightening the geopolitical tension drastically.