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[Newsmaker] Humanitarian aid for North Korea roils UN Security council

Controversy continues to escalate at the United Nations Security Council over humanitarian aid for North Korea, with member states divided over sanctions exemptions required to send relief materials to the country.

The United States has been delaying approval of several requests for sanctions exemptions to deliver tractors, spare parts and other goods needed for humanitarian relief in North Korea, according to an AFP report Thursday.

Russia asked the Security Council to discuss the delays during a closed-door meeting Thursday. However, the United States accused Russia of cheating on sanctions enforcement and asked for more time to consider lifting the punitive measures.

“We’re concerned about the humanitarian situation in North Korea, but the truth always comes out,” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters after the Security Council meeting. 

Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations. Yonhap
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations. Yonhap

While denouncing Russia for seeking to score “brownie points” with North Korea by raising the issue of sanctions relief, Haley said the US will spend more time reviewing the requests to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands of the North Korean leadership.

Russia’s envoy did not speak to reporters after exiting the meeting with Hailey. The Russian delegate later issued a statement, saying North Korea faces “serious humanitarian problems,” and urged the Security Council to fix the problem, according to Reuters.

“We consider such a situation to be absolutely unacceptable and actually violating the decisions of the council as they should not be directed against the population of the DPRK (North Korea) or the activity of humanitarian agencies,” the Russian UN mission said.

North Korea is under crippling economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in response to the country’s relentless nuclear and missile tests, but aid groups can request exemptions to send humanitarian assistance to the impoverished state.

Citing relevant documents, AFP reported the exemptions would allow deliveries of plumbing parts needed to repair North Korean health facilities, farm equipment, such as tractors, and other goods needed for humanitarian projects.

Among the delayed relief projects in North Korea is one presented in August by Ireland’s largest humanitarian agency, Concern Worldwide. AFP said the document showed the company’s four relief projects came to a halt after the US requested more time.

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