Home GRASP GRASP/Korea Washington Wants Pyongyang to Choose: Humanitarian Aid or Nukes

Washington Wants Pyongyang to Choose: Humanitarian Aid or Nukes


The United States is hampering some aid groups from fighting tuberculosis and other diseases in North Korea.
The administration of U. S. President Donald Trump is restricting some international relief agencies from delivering humanitarian assistance to needy North Koreans, in the latest effort to compel Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear arms program.
In recent months, U. S. diplomats have delayed the export of surgical equipment and supplies for fighting tuberculosis and malaria to North Korea, and held up the delivery from Canada of 300 stainless steel soy-milk cans for day care centers and orphanages there, according to several diplomatic sources and internal United Nations documents.
The measures, which the United States is channeling through the U. N. Security Council committee responsible for monitoring sanctions on North Korea, appears to be part of Washington’s maximum pressure campaign against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime.
In recent months, the State Department has also restricted visas for American aid workers seeking to work in Pyongyang, while the Treasury Department has imposed cumbersome licensing requirements on private charities that work with North Koreans.
At the United Nations, the United States has routinely blocked or delayed for months the delivery of medical supplies and water sanitation equipment and prevented charities from supporting food and agricultural infrastructure programs.
Last month, a top official at U. N. Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, warned that its operations in North Korea “may be compromised” if vital equipment, including solar water pumps that supply fresh water in hospitals for drug-resistant tuberculosis patients, isn’t approved on “an urgent basis.”
“All these items are critical to UNICEF’s humanitarian activities in [North Korea],” Omar Abdi, UNICEF’s deputy Executive Director wrote in a confidential November 30 letter to the U. N. sanctions committee.
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has been seeking for more than two months to persuade the United States to lift a hold on equipment needed to ensure that clinics which provide anti-tuberculosis tablets have clean water to wash them down.
“We are providing very basic medical equipment, which we can monitor and hand to a little clinic with confidence it can’t be diverted,” said Richard Blewitt, the IFRC’s head of delegation and permanent observer to the U. N. He said that water taps and kidney trays are among the items being held up by the United States.
In December 2017, the Trump administration secured U. N. Security Council support for a resolution sanctioning North Korea in retaliation for its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The sanctions resolution—which targeted Pyongyang’s energy and export sectors—allowed exemptions for the delivery of humanitarian aid, as long as it was approved by Security Council sanctions committee.
A set of guidelines drawn up by the sanctions committee in August to expedite the approval of humanitarian goods states that the sanctions “are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of [North Korea] or to affect negatively or restrict those activities, including economic activities and cooperation, food aid and humanitarian assistance, that are not prohibited.”
Under questioning from diplomatic colleagues, U. S. officials acknowledged that Washington had imposed a tougher policy for humanitarian assistance. According to the new terms, the United States is only approving medications and other life-saving aid used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.

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