Remarks on Humanitarian Assistance to the DPRK

Remarks
Stephen Biegun
Special Representative for North Korea 
Incheon International Airport
Seoul, South Korea
December 19, 2018


Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be back here in Seoul. This will be my 18th meeting with my counterpart Ambassador Lee Do-hoon, and it is wonderful to be here again and to have the opportunity to work with a close ally South Korea.

This week Ambassador Lee and I will resume our discussions on how to work together to engage the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in a manner that will help us move forward and move beyond the 70 years of hostility that have divided the Korean Peninsula, the Korean people, and the United States and the DPRK.

Toward that end, upon my return to Washington, D.C., next week, I have been directed by Secretary of State Pompeo to review United States policy on humanitarian assistance provided to the DPRK by private and religious American organizations. I understand many humanitarian aid organizations operating in the DPRK are concerned that strict enforcement of international sanctions has occasionally impeded the delivery of legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Korean people.

I will be sitting down with American aid groups early in the New Year to discuss how we can better ensure the delivery of appropriate assistance, particularly through the course of the coming winter.

We will also review American citizen travel to the DPRK for purposes of facilitating the delivery of aid and ensuring that monitoring in line with international standards can occur. Beginning last year, the United States imposed strict limits on the approval of travel of U.S. citizens to the DPRK. These limits may also have impacted the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Two months ago, an American citizen was detained for illegally entering the DPRK. The government of the DPRK handled the review of the American citizen's expulsion expeditiously and with great discretion and sensitivity through diplomatic channels. This step gives us greater confidence about the safety and security of Americans traveling to the DPRK and will be one factor that we consider as we review travel requests by American representatives of humanitarian aid groups.

I want to be clear. The United States and the United Nations will continue to closely review requests for exemptions and licenses for the delivery of assistance to the DPRK. We will still prioritize the safety and security of Americans as we review the requests for travel. And we will continue to expect that humanitarian aid organizations to meet international standards for access and monitoring of their programs. However, we also believe the conditions are right for us to reevaluate how these policies are implemented, and we plan to do so early next year.

I look forward to a productive set of meetings with my counterpart Ambassador Lee Do-hoon this week. We may have more things to say to the press at the end of our meetings.

Thank you very much.