December 20, 2018 09:53
The U.S. will review a travel ban for Americans to North Korea to facilitate humanitarian shipments to the impoverished state.
Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, made the announcement on arrival at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday. He said he is aware that many charities working in the North are concerned that the strict enforcement of sanctions has "occasionally impeded the delivery of legitimate humanitarian assistance" to North Korea.
"I will be sitting down with American aid groups early in the new year to discuss how we can better ensure the delivering of the appropriate assistance, particularly through the course of the coming winter," he added. "We will also review American citizen travel to [North Korea] for purposes of facilitating the delivery of aid and ensuring that monitoring in line with international standards can occur."
The move seems to be a carrot to bring the North back to the dialogue table.
Two months ago, an American was detained in the North for illegal entry, but Pyongyang "handled the review of the American citizen's expulsion expeditiously and with great discretion and sensitivity through diplomatic channels," Biegun said. This gave Washington "greater confidence about the safety and security of Americans traveling" to North Korea.
Biegun is in theory the U.S. representative in "working-level" talks with the North, but none have taken place since he was appointed in late August because Pyongyang refused to show up.
Biegun stays in Seoul until Saturday and meets with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon on Thursday and attend a bilateral working-group meeting on Friday.
South Korean and U.S. officials are expected to discuss exemptions from sanctions for the ground-breaking ceremony on a project to reconnect cross-border railways and roads on Dec. 26, video-link reunions of families separated by the Korean War, modernization of North Korean tree nurseries, and the launch of a new air route between the two Koreas.
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