WASHINGTON -- A US senator has urged the Senate leadership to include measures to streamline aid to North Korea in a future coronavirus relief package.
The proposal by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was sent in a May 15 letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to a press release posted on Markey's website Monday.
"As you work to craft future coronavirus relief packages, I urge you to include in them legislation I have introduced that addresses pandemic-related international priorities," Markey wrote, listing among them the need to ensure that US sanctions "do not hinder the delivery of lifesaving aid."
He specifically mentioned North Korea as a country where COVID-19 is exacerbating the challenges posed by other deadly infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
"Roughly 10 million people in North Korea are in urgent need of food assistance, and more than 40 percent of its citizens are under-nourished," he said, adding that the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act, which he introduced together with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) last month, would help provide relief.
North Korea is under a wide array of US and international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Markey said his bill would "streamline the delivery of lifesaving aid that nongovernmental organizations provide to the people of North Korea, by ensuring that the Treasury Department, the State Department, and the UN's North Korea sanctions committee faithfully implement exemptions for trade in food and medicine."
He added: "I have also joined my colleagues in urging the Trump administration to take practical steps to ensure that US sanctions on countries such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea do not needlessly hinder lifesaving assistance to the people of those countries, and urge inclusion of language to that effect."
North Korea continues to claim zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The US has offered its assistance with the pandemic, but has apparently received no response. (Yonhap)