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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 July, 2004, 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
US donating food aid to N Korea
North Korean spent nuclear fuel rods in Yongbyon
Mr Boucher said the move was not related to talks on the nuclear crisis
The United States says it is to donate 50,000 tons of food aid to North Korea,

The state department said the gesture was unrelated to negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said the aid was to help the North Korean people and not try to affect the talks.

The aid will be distributed through the World Food Programme. Mr Boucher said the North was allowing more monitoring of food distribution and security.

The aid is "to help relieve the suffering of the North Korean people despite our concerns about the North Korean government's policies," said Mr Boucher.

But Mr Boucher did say, however, that it would be "good" if the aid impressed the North Koreans and made them adopt a more favourable attitude in the talks.

The gift of food brings the US a little closer to the South Koreans' attempts to lure its enemy and neighbour out of isolation with friendly gestures, the BBC's Andrew Wood reports from the region.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of North Koreans are thought to have died from famine in recent years.

Talks

Washington is currently engaged in six-party talks with North Korea, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea to resolve the nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has held talks with the North Korean Foreign Minister, Paek Nam-sun.

The two men met for 20 minutes on the sidelines of a regional meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

It was the highest-level talks between the two countries since the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions erupted two years ago.




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