WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday the United States will give financial assistance to North Korea (search) in the aftermath of a devastating train collision there.
Powell said the Bush administration was working toward that end with the United Nations (search). He did not say how much would be provided to the communist regime.
Despite differences with North Korea over its weapons programs and authoritarian policies, the United States has been the largest provider of food aid to the economically beleaguered Asian country.
"America has always been a giving nation in time of need," Powell said in a joint news conference with Danish officials at the State Department.
The Bush administration is in close touch with the United Nations and "we will be making an offer," Powell said.
Last year, the United States provided North Korea with 100,000 tons of food.
"Our goal is to help the North Korean people," department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
While the United States will not oversee distribution of U.S. aid, it will rely on international organizations "to make sure it gets to the people," Boucher said.
The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. Along with China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, the administration is in the midst of trying to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Two sessions have been held and a third may be held in June.
The death toll from the train explosion last Thursday stood Monday at roughly 160 and more than 1,300 people were listed as injured.
In Dandong, a North Korean town pulverized in the explosion, tents and blankets, instant noodles and water purification tablets were streaming in.
But North Korea was hesitant to open its heavily armed border with South Korea to let in aid shipments from the South Korean Red Cross (search).
"There is still a huge need for help," said Brendan McDonald, a U.N. aid coordinator in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. "The immediate needs for the homeless are under control. The main concern is for those in hospital."
Japan planned to send medical kits and Russia promised aid Monday. South Korea, Australia and China have also agreed to contribute money and supplies.