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N. Korea's severe virus measures hinder humanitarian aid: State Dept.

Unification Minister Lee In-young speaks during a press conference in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Unification Minister Lee In-young speaks during a press conference in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The US State Department assessed that North Korea's stringent measures against COVID-19 have significantly impeded efforts of outside organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to the impoverished nation, according to a news report Sunday.

Radio Free Asia quoted a State Department spokesperson as saying that Pyongyang's "extremely stringent COVID-19 response" has "significantly hindered the efforts of humanitarian organizations, UN agencies and other countries to deliver aid to those most in need" after the North received swift exemptions from the UN committee on the 1718 resolution.

The comments were made in response to remarks by South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young, who, in an interview with the Financial Times, called for efforts to ensure that international sanctions on Pyongyang do not result in unintended negative effects on the lives of ordinary North Korean people.

Pyongyang claims to be coronavirus-free, but it has taken relatively swift and drastic antivirus measures since early last year, including sealing its borders and imposing strict restrictions on movement.

The spokesperson also said that the US was committed to continuing to review UN humanitarian exemption applications as quickly as possible.

"The international community must also continue to insist on credible and transparent monitoring and evaluation, access, and oversight, consistent with internationally recognized best practices to ensure humanitarian aid reaches the most vulnerable North Koreans," the spokesperson added. (Yonhap)