The United Nations said on Thursday it is negotiating with impoverished North Korea over its aid presence, which the Pyongyang alleges has been politicized and wants reduced.
North Korea requested in a letter last month that the UN reduce its involvement in the isolated country, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a daily press conference without giving details.
The letter, obtained by AFP, asked that the drawdown occur before the end of the year and comes as working-level denuclearization talks with Washington remain gridlocked.
“UN-supported programs failed to bring the results as desired due to the politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces,” a North Korean official, Kim Chang Min, says in the letter.
“In particular, in recent years, UN support in the country has been substantially downsized and the delivery of supplies been further delayed, heavily impacting the overall implementation of UN projects.”
At the initiative of the United States, North Korea was hit in 2017 by three sets of international sanctions targeting its economy.
The measures aimed to curb the country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, but the UN allowed exemptions for goods linked to humanitarian aid.
“Current UN operations already have a light footprint on the ground,” Dujarric said.
“Continued capacity at current levels is vital for ensuring continued UN support for critical food security, water, nutrition programming, as well as mobilizing resources,” he said.
The United Nations counts several dozen staff members in North Korea, most of whom are working for the World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund.
North Korea suffers chronic food shortages and recorded its worst harvest in a decade last year, the UN’s human rights body has said.
“I think it bears restating that the UN and international NGOs reached over two million people with humanitarian aid in 2018, including food security, nutrition and health projects,” Dujarric added.
North Korea on Saturday lashed out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his comments on Pyongyang’s “rogue behavior” and warned its expectations for denuclearization talks with Washington are “gradually disappearing.”
Despite an agreement in June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump to kickstart the process, no progress has been made in recent weeks and Pyongyang launched a series of weapons tests.