N. Korea gets drug aid from S. Korean group

North Korea received anti-tuberculosis drugs in humanitarian aid from a private South Korean charity group last week despite its recent bellicose rhetoric against Seoul, a government official said Thursday.

The local group, Eugene Bell, shipped 678 million won (US$ 600,265) worth of medicine through the Chinese port of Dalian and the shipment arrived in the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago, the official said.

Seoul gave the charity group the nod last month, the first approval of humanitarian aid to North Korea under the new Park Geun-hye administration, saying South Korea will continue to provide assistance to the underprivileged in North Korea.

Eugene Bell plans to visit the North around April 18 in order to monitor the distribution of the aid although it is uncertain whether Pyongyang will allow the visit.

The charity foundation has been running a medical service program for tuberculosis patients in the North since 2000 and sends drugs on a regular basis to the impoverished country.

North Korea's acceptance came only five days after the country sharply escalated tensions with the South by announcing that "from this moment, the North-South relations will be put in the state of war."

It may indicate the North's possible intention to separate the humanitarian aid issue and the broader aggressive actions against South Korea, analysts said.

Following the North's third nuclear test on Feb. 12, the country has ratcheted up tensions with Seoul by repeating threats to wage a nuclear war, nullifying the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, and severing the military hotline between the two countries.

South Korean officials have said the North is preparing to conduct an imminent missile launch from its east coast in the following days.