President Biden faces calls to review North Korea sanctions

President Joe Biden has been called on to remove sanctions that some senators are alleging prevent humanitarian aid from reaching North Korea.

Senator Edward J Markey (D-MA) and Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI) wrote a letter to the president, dated November 8, imploring him to take a look at the current sanctions and restrictions placed on North Korea.

The country closed its borders in early 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and has yet to reopen them. Leaders announced last month that the country is facing a hunger crisis, with the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un asking citizens to eat less. Humanitarian aid, which could provide hunger relief is unable to get to the country due to sanctions.

Non-governmental agencies from the U.S. have been providing humanitarian aid to North Korea for years and have been doing so successfully. Most are religious nonprofit organizations, which means that the funds come from private sources, not taxpayer money.

In the letter, the politicians assert that “standing in the way” of providing this aid is something the Trump administration would have done. Conversely, they said, “Your Administration can best demonstrate its commitment to humanitarian cooperation with North Korea by directing the Department of the Treasury to modify its humanitarian exemption under existing sanctions regulations and instructing the State Department to expeditiously respond to requests for special validation passports for humanitarian travel.”

The two argued that Biden’s administration would be able to make the changes by making changes to the humanitarian exemption regulations, as well as another section so that the humanitarian organizations won’t require a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to create partnerships and agreements.

They also requested that the process for acquiring a permit to travel to North Korea be simplified and expedited, among other things. They ended the letter by expressing their support for Biden’s work, specifically for appointing a special envoy to North Korea. They also expressed their appreciation of the start of negotiations with Pyongyang, North Korea, which they said would only be improved by the removal of the sanctions. 




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