North Korea accepts American aid after blast


2004.05.05
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SEOUL�North Korean has accepted a U.S. offer of financial and medical aid after a deadly train explosion near the Chinese border, RFA�s Korean service reports.

"The United States has expressed its intention to provide U.S. $100,000 via the International Committee of the Red Cross for funds to purchase supplies," South Korea�s Yonhap news agency quoted Han Song-ryol, North Korea�s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, as saying.

"As we agreed to accept the help, the U.S. will provide sets of emergency medical supplies," Han said.

At least 160 people were killed and 1,300 injured in the April 22 explosion in Ryongchon, near the border with China. North Korean media blame the explosion on electric cables that ignited explosive chemicals and oil being transported on a passing train. North Korean state media say the explosion also destroyed 30 public buildings and at least 8,100 homes.

Many other countries have responded to the accident, including South Korea, Russia, China, Australia, Germany and Japan.

Han said the American aid could help improve bilateral relations.

"The fundamental problems lying between the United States and North Korea are [mutual] mistrust and misunderstanding," Han was quoted as saying. "If the two countries are able to build up trust through this kind of contact, it would help improve bilateral relations."

North Korea has also refused to allow South Korean doctors and other specialists into the site. "We already have enough medical staff and what is urgently needed now are medicine and medical equipment," Han said.

South Korea and the United States have been frozen in a standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons program since October 2002, when Washington accused Pongyang of breaking a 1994 nuclear freeze by launching a secret weapons drive. #####

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