US to provide emergency flood aid to North Korea

The United States is providing up to $900,000 in emergency aid to North Korea after recent floods in the impoverished country.

The State Department said Thursday it will contribute relief supplies to North Korea's Kangwon and North and South Hwanghae provinces through U.S. nongovernmental groups.

In a statement, the department said the relief "demonstrates our continuing concern for the well-being of the North Korean people."

The aid offer follows exploratory talks in late July between U.S. and North Korean officials in New York on how to resume stalled multinational talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

The statement reiterated, however, that the provision of humanitarian assistance is separate from political and security concerns. It also said the U.S. supports such aid to North Korea "in accordance with international standards for monitoring."

Particularly heavy rainfall pounded the Korean peninsula in late July. North Korea's state news agency reported this month the rains caused flooding that killed about 30 people and left thousands homeless.

International donors are leery of providing assistance to Pyongyang because of the possibility that it could be diverted to the communist party elite and military, and because the North Korean government has continued to develop its nuclear weapons while its people go hungry.

The U.S. has yet to respond to a separate North Korean request for food aid made in January after floods last year and a harsh winter that hit staple crops. A U.N. assessment completed in March concluded that some 6 million people, or a quarter of the population, needed emergency aid.

The communist-led country perennially suffers food shortages, and heavy rain can be catastrophic due to poor drainage, deforestation and dilapidated infrastructure. North Korea has said harvests probably will be hurt this year because of extensive damage to farmland.

The State Department said that following severe flooding in September 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development provided $600,000 in emergency relief supplies to North Korea.