The World Health Organization has started shipping COVID-19-related medical supplies to North Korea. Although no formal change to the DPRK’s severe closed border policy has been announced, the WHO said it has begun to transport emergency health kits, medicines, and medical supplies through the Chinese port of Dalian to the North Korean port of Nampo.
The United States welcomed the news. “We continue to support international efforts aimed at the provision of critical humanitarian aid to the DPRK,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price. In particular, he pointed to the ongoing efforts by the United States to expedite approvals in the UN 1718 Committee for organizations from around the world to deliver lifesaving aid to the DPRK. The 1718 Committee is responsible for overseeing the sanctions measures imposed by the UN Security Council on North Korea, including consideration of cases for humanitarian exceptions.
“We do support efforts to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people,” Spokesperson Price declared. “It’s important to emphasize, at the same time, that the DPRK regime itself is primarily responsible for the humanitarian situation in the country. The regime continues to exploit its own citizens, to violate their human rights, to divert resources from the country’s people to build up its unlawful WMD and ballistic missiles program.”
Spokesperson Price described U.S. policy toward the DPRK as a “calibrated, practical approach that seeks serious and sustained diplomacy with the DPRK to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies, and our deployed forces. Our goal remains complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and to that end we remain prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions.”
State Department Spokesperson Price said the United States has made “specific proposals for discussions with the DPRK in our messages to them, and we hope that they respond positively to our outreach.”
Meanwhile, regarding the sanctions against the DPRK, Mr. Price noted the existence of humanitarian carveouts, exemptions, or authorizations “to ensure in the first instance we are not doing anything that would compound…the deprivation of the North Korean people.”
“Even when we disagree with a particular regime, he declared, “we believe we must work to the best of our ability to do all we can to alleviate the suffering of the people.”