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Floods cause summit's delay
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08:34, August 20, 2007

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) agreed on Saturday to postpone until October 2-4 the summit they had planned to hold this month because of the flooding that has killed hundreds of people and made more than 300,000 homeless in the North.

The meeting, originally set for August 28-30 between ROK President Roh Moo-hyun and DPRK leader Kim Jong-il, will be only the second between leaders of Asia's fourth-biggest economy and its poor neighbor.

Pyongyang asked for the delay on Saturday "considering the urgency of the recovery work on the floods to stabilize the people's lives" and suggested Seoul pick a convenient date, the ROK's presidential office said in a statement.

"The government has decided to accept the North's proposal," a spokesman for President Roh said. "The government has notified the North of President Roh Moo-hyun's visit to Pyongyang on October 2-4," he added.

Pyongyang, in a message from the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's United Front Department, swiftly accepted the new dates, another official at the president's office said.

The summit will be the first in seven years between the two Koreas, which have been divided since the end of World War II and are still technically at war.

Analysts have said Roh is likely to offer Pyongyang a massive economic package. The South's central bank, pointing to floods and the international sanctions imposed after a nuclear test conducted last October, said this week that the North's destitute economy contracted for the first time in eight years in 2006.

A ROK Unification Ministry official said the floods appeared to be the only factor behind the North's decision to delay the meeting.

"They probably tried to work on the flood damage in time for the summit but it must have been physically difficult," Vice-Unification Minister Lee Kwan-se was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

South Korea is sending emergency aid worth 7.1 billion won ($7.5 million) to its neighbor.

The United States said on Friday it would give $100,000 to buy blankets, shelter materials, water and other items for victims of the floods.

Source: China Daily/agencies

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