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North Korea calls South's offer of flood aid an insult

SEOUL -- North Korea has criticized South Korea's offer to send aid for flood victims, with officials calling the amount and types of the goods an insult, North Korean state media reported Thursday.

After Pyongyang asked what aid items the South could send, Seoul on Tuesday proposed providing 10,000 tons of flour, 3 million packages of ramen noodles and medical supplies, according to South Korean officials. South Korea's Unification Ministry said Wednesday that North Korea had rejected its offer, a decision it said was “very regrettable.”

The North's Red Cross Society didn't say exactly what Seoul offered to send, but it characterized it as a “negligible quantity of goods.” South Korea “seriously insulted us,” an unidentified spokesman for the Central Committee of the Red Cross Society said in remarks carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday.

“This goes to clearly prove that the South Korean puppet group's proposal to offer aid is nothing but a gesture to gain gratitude and save its face under the public pressure,” he said.

Since June, floods in North Korea have killed more than 170 people, submerged vast swaths of farmland and destroyed thousands of homes, according to state media. A recent typhoon also killed 48 people and left about 21,000 others homeless, state media said.

This isn't the first time that impoverished North Korea has turned away South Korean assistance. An offer made after floods last year was rejected by the North after Seoul refused to meet its demand to ship cement, heavy equipment and rice, which could be used for military purposes, according to South Korean officials.

The North's Red Cross Society spokesman said South Korea again persistently insisted on disallowing the offer of rice, cement and equipment for rehabilitation, according to KCNA.

Ties between the divided Koreas remain strained following two deadly attacks blamed on North Korea that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010. Pyongyang has also repeatedly threatened to attack South Korea over perceived insults.

The North was experiencing protracted drought earlier this year, raising concerns about the effect the severe weather will have on the country's farms. In June, the United Nations said two-thirds of the country's 24 million people were grappling with chronic food shortages.

Recent state media dispatches said North Korea has mobilized soldiers for recovery works at flood-hit mine areas in Komdok, Ryongyang and Taehung. Premier Choe Yong Rim also visited one of the areas to see its recovery efforts, KCNA said Tuesday.

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