US State Dept. considers waiving sanctions and travel bans for humanitarian aid to N. Korea

Stephen Linton, chairman of the Eugene Bell Foundation, a charity that was granted permission from the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to deliver aid supplies to North Korea, gives a special press conference at the Korea Press Center in Seoul on Nov. 16, 2018, regarding his visit to North Korea.

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WASHINGTON D.C., Feb 16, 2019, Hankyoreh. The US State Department announced that it was considering the option of waiving sanctions and the travel ban on relief groups that provide humanitarian aid to North Korea. The UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea has already authorized two international aid groups based in France to take supplies into the North, reported the Hankyoreh.

Responding to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stating that four out of 10 North Koreans are in a state of malnutrition, a spokesperson for the US State Department said that the US is deeply concerned about North Koreans’ well-being, the Voice of America reported. The spokesperson explained that the policy was being reviewed to ensure that the strict implementation of sanctions was not preventing lawful support from reaching North Koreans.

This spokesperson also responded to criticism from some figures that the US government’s position that sanctions must remain in place until denuclearization is complete was hampering humanitarian aid activities. “We expect humanitarian aid organizations to meet international standards related to access and surveillance. The US and the UN continue to carefully consider requests for authorizing aid and for making exceptions to sanctions on North Korea,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that, for the time being, the US government was not planning to get directly involved in humanitarian aid.

On Feb. 13, the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea authorized Handicap International and Première Urgence Internationale (PUI), both international aid organizations whose headquarters are located in France, to take humanitarian aid supplies into North Korea. Handicap International is planning to ship a total of 73 items worth 233,363 euros, including construction material for expanding accessibility and support equipment for people with disabilities, including metal crutches and wheelchairs. PUI was given permission to take materials into North Korea for programs aimed at improving nutrition for children at nurseries and kindergartens and for building goat farms in South Hwanghae Province.

So far, exemptions from sanctions have been granted to 12 humanitarian aid programs for North Korea. These programs are run by groups including UNICEF, the Eugene Bell Foundation, First Step, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit under the Swiss Foreign Ministry, World Vision, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

By Yoo Kang-moon, senior staff writer

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