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Iran Press TV

UN expert urges reconsideration of sanctions on North Korea amid pandemic

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 09 June 2020 3:29 PM

A United Nations (UN) human rights expert has called on the UN Security Council to "reconsider [the] sanctions" imposed on North Korea as they are worsening an alleged humanitarian crisis in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, warned in a statement on Tuesday that the sanctions, imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as the country's closure of its borders following the coronavirus pandemic had interrupted food supplies and subsequently precipitated a humanitarian crisis in the Asian country.

Quintana voiced alarm at what he called "widespread food shortages and malnutrition" in North Korea after a nearly five-month closure of the country's borders with China and strict quarantine measures against the viral outbreak. He said Pyongyang's decision to shut down its borders since January had led to a 90-percent reduction in trade with China and the loss of revenues in March and April.

"The crisis highlights the economic hardships facing North Koreans, and the detrimental impact of sanctions on the fulfillment of basic economic and social rights," Quintana said.

The UN human rights expert said that "prospects of a further deepening of food shortages and widespread food insecurity are alarming," as he claimed there had been reports of an increase in the number of homeless people in large cities and a sharp rise in the prices of medicine.

Pyongyang has in recent years been subject to multiple Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs. The US has spearheaded those sanctions and has imposed rounds of its own.

Moreover, Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), told a news briefing in Geneva that the humanitarian situation in North Korea "remains bleak."

More than 10 million people, or 40 percent of the North Korean population, need humanitarian aid, she said.

"Malnutrition has been persistent and widespread, causing long-term damage to the health and development of children, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers," Byrs said.

The new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year.

The pandemic has so far infected over 7.13 people across the world and claimed the lives of over 406,000 others, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

North Korea has introduced intense measures against the coronavirus disease outbreak even though it has reported no cases. The country has banned almost all cross-border travel and puts foreigners in quarantine as a precautionary measure.

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