Sunday, June 16, 2024

Red Cross ready to re-engage with N.Korea as soon as access granted: Official

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) remains ready to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea and resume projects suspended during the coronavirus pandemic whenever the reclusive country reaches out for aid, an official at the organisation has said.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Olivier Ray, the ICRC’s director for mobilisation, movement and partnerships, also said that the group maintains contact with the Red Cross Society of the reclusive nation.

Ray is currently on his first official visit to Seoul to discuss South Korea’s humanitarian assistance and increasingly active role on the global stage with high-ranking officials from both government and aid organisations, particularly as it was recently elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

“As of today, the ICRC does not have access to the DPRK due to the Covid-related restrictions that the government has imposed since 2020,” he said referring to North Korea by its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“But we remain in contact with the DPRK Red Cross Society, we have some information through that channel and we are ready to re-engage whenever we have access.”

The director also said that North Korean authorities are aware of the ICRC’s willingness to resume operations in Pyongyang.

“The authorities know that when they are ready, we are ready to send a mission to analyse the needs and re-assess the condition of our presence,” he said.

The Geneva-based ICRC has operated an office in Pyongyang since 2002.

Regarding escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and growing provocations from the North, Ray stressed the importance of “active neutrality” and making a “clear distinction between those who carry weapons” and civilians in need of humanitarian assistance.

In case of military conflict on the Korean Peninsula the ICRC will stay committed to dispatching highly trained “surge teams” or rapid deployment teams from Switzerland with the aim of arriving within 24 hours to help civilians, according to the director.

Tensions have been running high on the peninsula in recent weeks with the recalcitrant country making a botched attempt to launch a purported military spy satellite last week, triggering air raid sirens in both South Korea and Japan.

Formed in 1863, the ICRC is one of the oldest global humanitarian organisations and is mainly involved in protecting victims of conflicts and providing them with assistance.

It opened its offices in North and South Korea in 2002 and 2015, respectively.

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