US President Joe Biden on Monday continued to declare a national emergency concerning North Korea on the grounds of its nuclear and missile threats, extending sanctions against the regime. Separately the same day, the United Nations called for relaxing sanctions on Pyongyang to enable COVID-related assistance.
In a message sent to Congress, Biden said the risk posed by North Korea of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula “continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the US.
For this reason, Biden determined that it was necessary to “continue the national emergency” declared in Executive Order 13466 with respect to North Korea, repeating the same phrases made last year.
He extended the effectiveness of six executive orders, from the executive order on sanctions against North Korea issued by former President George W. Bush on June 26, 2008, to the executive order signed by former President Donald Trump on Sept. 20, 2017.
The US has designated North Korea as a subject of national emergency every year since it issued its first administrative order to impose sanctions on the reclusive regime in 2008, citing nuclear and missile threats.
Under the US National Emergency Act enacted in 1976, the president can declare a state of emergency and expand his administrative authority in the event of a national crisis.
On Sunday, North Korea fired multiple rocket launchers into the West Sea, staging its 19th armed demonstration this year. According to US nuclear experts, North Korea’s seventh nuclear test is imminent, and the only remaining task is to move the relevant equipment into the tunnel of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
The Biden administration has repeatedly issued strong warnings about North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
In a joint press meeting with Foreign Minister Park Jin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the US is preparing for all contingencies in close coordination with South Korea and Japan.
“We know that the North Koreans have done preparations for such a test. We are being extremely vigilant about that,” Blinken said. “And we are prepared to make both short and longer-term adjustments to our military posture, as appropriate.”UN calls for easing sanctions for NK human rights
On the same day, United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet urged the international community to ease sanctions on the North to protect their human rights in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bachelet said in an opening speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, “I remain concerned by the likely human rights impact of the reported outbreak of COVID-19 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
In the absence of any vaccination rollout, the limited health care infrastructure and the precarious food situation is likely to be “severe particularly on vulnerable populations,” she said.
She urged the international community to “relax sanctions” to enable urgent humanitarian and COVID-related assistance and encouraged North Korea “to open channels” for humanitarian support, including the presence of UN staff.
South Korea and the US reached out to North Korea to hold talks on supplying pandemic-related aid but have not received a response from the North.
North Korea claimed on Tuesday that the number of new fever patients, or those suspected to be infected with COVID-19, has remained in the 30,000 range for the second day. Figures on the deaths and fatality rates have not been disclosed.
So far, there are about 4.5 million fever patients nationwide, of which 4.44 million were fully recovered and 57,780 are being treated, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com