North Korea has rejected an offer of help from the Red Cross of South Korea to cope with the devastation wrought by heavy rains last month, officials said yesterday.
North Korea has admitted that hundreds died and vast tracts of farmland were destroyed in flooding that began in the middle of last month.
But the Korea National Red Cross (KNRC) of South Korea said its North Korean counterpart had turned down the offer of relief aid in a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
"We offered them help through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. They expressed thanks but said they would do it for themselves," KNRC spokesman Kim Hyung-Sup said.
North Korea was battered by heavy rainfall for nearly two weeks beginning July 10, leaving hundreds of people dead or missing, according to an official North Korean report. One relief agency, however, put the casualty figure at more than 3,000.
North Korea's countryside has been stripped of trees, which are burned for fuel, and rainwater sweeps unimpeded down hillsides, sending rivers of mud through farms and villages.
Pyongyang, citing flood damage, this week cancelled a joint celebration with South Korea scheduled for the North Korean capital on Aug. 15, the anniversary of liberation from Japanese rule.
It also put off a mass propaganda festival known as the Arirang festival, which was scheduled to run from Aug. 15 through October.
The move comes amid rising tension between North Korea and the outside world following its missile tests on July 5 that sparked UN Security Council condemnation and weapons-related sanctions for the Communist state.
The missile tests also strained inter-Korean ties, which have steadily improved since a 2000 peace summit between the leaders of both Koreas.
Seoul suspended its shipments of rice and other humanitarian aid to its impoverished northern neighbor in protest. In response, North Korea scrapped cross-border family reunions with South Korea.
The South Korean government has come under pressure from some quarters to ease the ban on humanitarian aid in order to help North Korea cope with the disaster.