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U.S. to offer $900,000 in relief aid for N. Korea

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) -- The United States announced a decision Thursday to provide $900,000 worth of emergency aid to flood-ravaged North Korea less than a month after the two sides resumed high-level dialogue.

"In response to humanitarian needs arising from recent flooding in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States will provide emergency humanitarian assistance to DPRK," the State Department said in a press release. "The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will contribute up to $900,000 in emergency relief supplies to North Korea's Kangwon and North and South Hwanghae provinces through U.S. NGOs

(nongovernmental organizations)."

The department emphasized that its move is unrelated to political or diplomatic circumstances.

 "This emergency relief demonstrates our continuing concern for the well-being of the North Korean people. It has been the United States' longstanding position that the provision of humanitarian assistance is separate from political and security concerns."

In a press briefing later, department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. is working on details through the North Korean mission to the United Nations, which in diplomatic circles is called the New York channel.

"We are still talking through the New York channel to North Korea about needs," she said.

"It would not include food. It includes things like plastic sheeting, tents, that kind of humanitarian, housing relief, that kind of thing. But I think we haven't decided."

Top North Korean and U.S. diplomats had two days of meetings in New York in late July to explore ways to revive the six-way nuclear negotiations.

Many expect an additional meeting in the near future.

South Korean officials said they have consulted with the U.S.

over flood aid to the North.

They also played down any political significance of the latest U.S. gesture.

"The U.S. provided flood-related aid last year. To our understanding, this year's aid is also a pure humanitarian move.

There is no concrete move yet toward further dialogue (with North

Korea) following the New York talks," a South Korean government official said, requesting anonymity. "Given the timing, however, the flood aid decision can send a good signal anyway."

The U.S. provided $600,000 in emergency relief supplies to North Korea in September after reports of severe floods there.

The communist North, with a fragile infrastructure, is haunted by summer floods. Its media reported that heavy rain in June and July left dozens either dead, injured or missing, destroyed thousands of homes and inundated huge tracts of farmland.

Earlier this month, South Korea offered aid worth 5 billion won ($4.7 million) to North Korea.