U.S. Halts UN Proposal to Help North Korea Address Climate Risk

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is blocking a United Nations initiative its supporters say would help North Korea cope with increasing risks posed by climate change even as the UN eases the flow of supplies meant to help mitigate a coronavirus outbreak.

A request made by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to run a two-year program inside North Korea to help Kim Jong Un’s regime respond to climate disasters and hazards was rejected by the U.S. on the grounds that it fell short of requirements for humanitarian exemptions.

In a letter to members of a Security Council committee, the U.S. said the “activities outlined describe broad organizational training and other bureaucratic assistance to a wide range of DPRK ministries, academic institutions and research organizations rather than aid ‘for the benefit of the civilian population of the DPRK.”’

Climate change concerns have never been a priority issue for Kim’s regime, which has been widely criticized for finding ways around a slew of international sanctions imposed over its continuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.

Even before Kim succeeded his father in 2011, the regime was long seen as prioritizing its nuclear ambitions over basic humanitarian issues, including providing food to its citizens, for operating a network of forced-labor camps, torturing and killing dissidents and hacking foreign companies and governments.

In a report published Tuesday, a UN panel of experts concluded that Pyongyang is continuing to illegally acquire virtual currencies and conduct cyberattacks against global banks to evade financial sanctions. It’s also carried out banned trade via ship-to-ship transfers of goods such as coal.

The Rome-based FAO said its project was humanitarian in nature because it sought to meet “the basic needs of the vulnerable civilian population which is facing increasing risks as a result of climate change, in particular with respect to food supply, water supply and basic rural infrastructures,” according to a copy of the proposal seen by Bloomberg.

While the UN has applied far-reaching sanctions designed to isolate Kim’s regime, it allows for humanitarian exemptions to help the civilian population. That has included sanctions exemptions for the transfer of goods aimed at helping North Korea prepare against a possible Covid-19 outbreak even though Pyongyang hasn’t acknowledged a single case there.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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