Washington (AFP) – The United States promised on Thursday to support aid efforts in North Korea to combat the new corona virus and is alarming the vulnerability of the poorly equipped state.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the United States is “deeply concerned” about the North Korean people’s vulnerability to COVID-19, which originated in neighboring China and killed more than 1,300 people there.
Ortagus said the United States supported aid efforts to curb the spread of the virus in North Korea.
“The United States is ready and ready to quickly facilitate the approval of support from these organizations,” she said in a statement.
Aid groups traveling to North Korea are requesting exemptions from major US and UN sanctions imposed on the authoritarian state’s nuclear and missile work.
The United States relaxed its approach to humanitarian aid last year when diplomacy with North Korea was strengthened as part of its nuclear program, but strict restrictions remain, including a ban on all travel by U.S. citizens to the country.
Officials in tightly controlled North Korea have said nothing about coronavirus cases, but state media said this week that foreigners would be put in quarantine for 30 days.
According to a major tour operator, North Korea has completely banned foreign travel groups, mostly from China.
The US offer of support is in the midst of stuck diplomacy between North Korea and the United States.
No pioneering nuclear deal was reached at three meetings between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang fired short-range missiles and called for an end to the sanctions.
But U.S. officials were cautiously hopeful after North Korea failed to take more drastic measures after Kim’s New Year speech, warning that his regime would no longer pause at nuclear and long-range missile tests.