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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
China plans to provide immediate humanitarian assistance for North Korean regions hit hard by flooding, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced on Wednesday.
“According to the request of North Korea, the Chinese government decided to offer 20 million yuan ($2.95 million) of emergency humanitarian relief supplies to the North Korean government without compensation,” the commerce ministry said in a statement written in Chinese.
“It [the aid supplies] will be used for supporting the North in emergency disaster relief and restoration of damage as well as reconstruction.”
The commerce ministry explained the background of the decision, citing deadly floods in the northeast early this September and the “tremendous casualties and severe property damage.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when contacted by NK News for comment, was not aware of the development and could not immediately comment on the issue.
North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), however, reported on China’s support on September 29, a month ahead of the formal announcement.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China decided to provide free relief goods to flood-hit northern areas of North Hamgyong Province of the DPRK,” KCNA reported.
KCNA also revealed that Red Cross Society of China and the Chinese embassy had sent aid materials to areas affected by Typhoon Lionrock, which hit in late August and early September.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on October 26 that the North and China had discussed border-related issues including cross-border infrastructure building, border cooperation and the opening of ports in the one-on-one meetings.
Liu Zhenmin, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his DPRK counterpart Pak Myong Guk attended the third meeting of the Korea-China Border Joint Commission in Pyongyang on October 25.
The issue of humanitarian relief operations and the establishment of a makeshift bridge in the Tumen River region was on the negotiating table.
The foreign ministry underscored “tens of thousands of houses” in the border area were destroyed, and many people were displaced.
“They need to purchase large amounts of disaster relief materials from China and transport these goods to their side. But the port bridges near the affected areas were seriously damaged,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters during a regular press briefing.
The foreign ministry said China should carry out their “humanitarian duties” as a neighbor of the North and a responsible member of the international community.
“At the request of the DPRK side and in the spirit of its world-recognized humanitarianism, China is considering putting up ‘temporary floating bridges’ on the Tumen River so that the goods needed by the affected DPRK people can be transported to the DPRK side,” Lu added.
The North Korean government has confirmed that around 69,000 people remain displaced and at least 140,000 people are severely affected, while around 30,000 houses have been damaged as of September 16, the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator DPRK reported.
On September 28, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said “US$28.2 million were urgently needed” to provide immediate assistance to 600,000 people in the regions.
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), however, reported on October 27 that international flood recovery operations in North Korea are moving forward but face several obstacles including a lack of funding, logistical issues and provision shortages.
Featured Image: UN, Marina Throne-Holst