July 11, 2005

S.Korea to give 500,000 tons of rice to North

By Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea agreed to give 500,000 tons
of rice to North Korea to help stave off a food crisis in the
reclusive, communist state, South Korea's Unification Ministry
said on Tuesday at the end of bilateral economic talks.

North Korea announced on Saturday it will return this month
to long-stalled stalled talks on ending its nuclear weapons
programs and officials in Seoul have said they hope
humanitarian aid can advance the diplomatic process.

North Korea's pressing food shortage has been seen as
partially contributing to Pyongyang's decision to resume talks,
which also involve South Korea, the United States, Japan,
Russia and China.

Finding donors to prevent its food shortage from turning
into widespread famine has become increasingly difficult with
North Korea boycotting talks on its nuclear weapons programs, a
senior U.N. World Food Programme official said.

"The aid is provided as a loan based on brethren love and
humanitarian principles," a Unification Ministry official told
reporters on Tuesday.

South Korea has told North Korea that full-scale aid and
commercial exchanges are impossible without the nuclear crisis

South Korea has provided 400,000 tons of rice to North
Korea in each of the last three years.

Under the agreement reached in the talks, North Korea will
also guarantee investment by South Korea to develop mineral
resources in the North such as coal, magnesite and zinc, the
Unification Ministry said in its statement.

Officials from South Korea's Korea Coal Corp. (KCC) went to
North Korea this month to discuss jointly developing North
Korean coal mines, a KCC official said.

The two Koreas also agreed at their 10th round of economic
cooperation discussions to hold fisheries talks this month in a
bid to resolve fishing disputes in the Yellow Sea that have led
to deadly naval clashes, the Unification Ministry said.

South Korea said the agreement marks the beginning of
complementary economic ties with more give-and-take rather than
the largely one-way provision of aid that has been the focus of
exchanges in the past.

South Korea will provide capital and technology to the
North from next year to help its manufacturers of household
goods, and the North will give mining rights to the South.

The two sides will also complete work on railway and
highways across the Demilitarized Zone border this year.

Although there has been some improvement since North
Korea's famine in the 1990s when an estimated one million
people died of starvation, Pyongyang continues to have trouble
feeding its 22.5 million people, the U.N.'s World Food
Programme has said.

South Korea has been shipping 150,000 tons of fertilizer to
the North after sending 200,000 tons last month.

The two Koreas resumed high-level contacts in May after
Pyongyang broke off all dialogue last year in anger over a
secret airlift of 468 North Korean refugees from Vietnam by the