S.Korea mulls providing more aid to N.Korea

SEOUL, Dec 21, 2009 (AFP) - South Korea said Monday it may provide more aid to impoverished North Korea following last week's shipment of swine flu medication, in a new sign of cross-border reconciliation.

"We are considering funding assistance projects by several international organisations for North Korean infants and children," unification ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung told a briefing.

The spokesman did not elaborate, saying the issue is still being reviewed.

Seoul's Yonhap news agency, citing a government source, said the aid worth billions of won (millions of dollars) would be channeled through the United Nations Children's Fund and other bodies.

South Korea on Friday shipped Tamiflu and Relenza worth 15 million dollars -- enough to treat 500,000 people -- to North Korea in the first direct government aid for nearly two years.

The shipment followed North Korea's report of nine cases of the (A)H1N1 virus, amid fears that the disease may spread fast because of poor health conditions and malnutrition.

It was the first direct aid to Pyongyang from Seoul's conservative government since it took office in February 2008. President Lee Myung-Bak linked major assistance to progress in nuclear disarmament, a stance which enraged the communist North.

North Korea in recent months has been trying to improve relations with South Korea and its ally the United States.

US envoy Stephen Bosworth visited Pyongyang earlier this month for talks aimed at bringing it back to nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Source: AFP

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