South Korea offers F&M aid to North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) — South Korea has offered North Korea help with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in pigs, which would be the first government-level humanitarian help since 2010. 


It comes as ties between the rivals have been warming.


North Korea’s agriculture ministry said in a state news agency report Feb. 23 that at least 3,200 pigs had been infected with foot-and-mouth. Some had died but most were slaughtered.


The outbreak, which began Jan. 8, had caused economic losses and was spreading because of shortages of vaccines, diagnostic means and disinfectants, the news agency said.


South Korea’s agriculture ministry said it wanted to help the North contain the spread.


“The government has suggested a practical-level meeting to discuss and offer aid today as it understands that this requires urgent measures,” the ministry said in a statement.


Ties between the two Koreas are often fraught, but in recent days hundreds of South Koreans have crossed into the North to be reunited with family members not seen since the 1950-53 Korean War.


The reunions were held despite North Korean anger over military exercises between South Korea and the United States, which began Feb. 24. Last year, the exercises triggered weeks of North Korean threats of war.


Foot-and-mouth usually affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. It rarely infects humans.


South Korea does not import meat from the North but has stepped up disinfection of workers in the Kaesong industrial complex jointly run with North Korea, as well as of people crossing the border for reunions.