08/03/2012, 00.00
NORTH KOREA - CHINA

Floods push Pyongyang to ask for international aid

North Korea has been denied international aid because of its military provocations and nuclear programme, but heavy rains in July killed 119 people, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. Rather than worry about his people, Kim Jong-un entertains top Chinese official at a state dinner in his first diplomatic foray.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Despite its military provocations and ongoing nuclear programme, North Korea has asked (and partly obtained) urgent international aid for its citizens, battered by last month's floods. Following Pyongyang's nuclear test in 2008, the United Nations had cut off humanitarian aid until it terminated its nuclear programme. Seoul and Washington, Pyongyang's main donors after Beijing, had done the same.

July's floods officially killed 119 people (but they could be many more) and caused havoc in several provinces. At least 100,000 people were displaced in Anju, Songchon and Chonnae.

A UN delegation that visited the affected areas said that residents needed everything: food, drugs, water and shelter.

Some international aid groups have already begun gathering supplies and donations. The Red Cross said it would allocate more than US$ 300,000 for flood victims. However, much more is needed since two thirds of North Korea's 24 million people already suffer from chronic food shortages.

Meanwhile, the 'young general' Kim Jong-un turned to dinners and diplomacy. North Korean state media said that Kim the third yesterday welcomed in Pyongyang a top Chinese official, Wang Jiarui, director of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, as head of a large delegation.

Still, although China is North Korea's staunchest ally, it is less and less willing to paper over the North Korean regime's follies.

At the meeting, Wang Jiarui conveyed greetings from China's President Hu Jintao to the North Korean dictator.

It is the policy of the Chinese party and government to consolidate and develop traditional friendly relations between China and North Korea, Wang said.

He expressed belief that this friendship would bloom more beautifully and yield rich fruits.

Instead of worrying about his people, Kim thanked his guest during what the North Korean news agency described as "a cordial and friendly talk," which was followed by a dinner.

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