S.Korea to offer North $5.6 mln in aid via UNICEF

This file illustration photo shows child holding a bag donated by the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF). South Korea said on Monday it would give the North $5.6 million in aid through the United Nations' children's agency in a fresh sign of easing tensions on the peninsula

South Korea said on Monday it would give the North $5.6 million in aid through the United Nations' children's agency in a fresh sign of easing tensions on the peninsula.

Seoul will offer the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) the money to help provide medicines and food to children and women in the North next year, said Seoul's unification ministry, which is in charge of cross-border affairs.

It is the first aid Seoul has offered via UNICEF since 2009.

"The decision has been made in line with our stance that purely humanitarian aid for the vulnerable should continue regardless of political conditions," ministry spokesman Choi Boh-Seon told reporters.

Cross-border tension has been acute since the South accused the communist North of torpedoing its warship at a loss of 46 lives in March 2010 and cut most trade and aid in reprisal.

Pyongyang angrily denied involvement but went on to shell a border island that left four South Koreans dead in November 2010, sparking a brief fear of all-out war.

But in recent months Seoul has made some concessions, such as permitting private food aid and some non-official cross-border visits.

The South last month resumed medical aid to the North through the World Health Organisation (WHO) with $6.9 million in assistance.

Seoul had given the WHO $13.1 million in 2009 for aid to its impoverished neighbour but blocked a part of disbursement in punishment for the warship sinking.