SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea rejected a request by North Korea Thursday for building materials and equipment as opposed to the emergency relief supplies and medicine it offered this week to help its destitute neighbor recover from devastating floods.
South Korea Wednesday offered aid worth 5 billion won ($4.7 million) to North Korea in a gesture signaling a possible easing of animosity between the rivals following deadly confrontation last year.
Relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have been marked by a flurry of diplomatic activity in the past two weeks as part of efforts by the United States aimed at gauging conditions for the resumption of six-party talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear arms program.
South Korea’s Red Cross said Thursday it wanted to send the aid package to help with flood relief.
It will include some food, but not building materials as the North’s request received Thursday sought, it said.
North Korean state media said heavy rains and a tropical storm dealt widespread damage to the country’s central region in June and July, leaving more than 8,000 people homeless.
Damage was also extensive in farm regions with 60,000 hectares of land washed away or inundated, affecting already chronic food shortages.
Diplomatic contacts follow a move by Seoul to cut off ties last year following the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March and the November shelling by North Korea of a South Korean island near the disputed maritime border.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ended a decade of large-scale aid to the North by his liberal predecessors, demanding Pyongyang stop its nuclear arms program first.
Seoul offered 10 billion won to Pyongyang during similar floods last summer. ($1 = 1060.500 Korean Won)
Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner