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ICRC chief arrives in Pyongyang

Aug. 21, 2013 at 10:45 AM

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said he was in North Korea to reaffirm a commitment to addressing humanitarian issues.

President Peter Maurer arrived in Pyongyang for a visit through the end of the week. He travels Friday to Beijing. His visit to North Korea is the first in 21 years.

Maurer's visit coincides with a U.N. assessment of the human rights situation in North Korea. U.N. representatives are interviewing North Korean refugees in Seoul.

Maurer said he was keen to address the plight of the "thousands" of family members separated by the Korean War in the 1950s.

"This visit, which comes 60 years after the armistice agreement, is an opportunity to reaffirm the ICRC's readiness to help resolve humanitarian issues on the Korean Peninsula," Maurer said in a statement Tuesday. "It also reflects our wish to broaden our exchanges and cooperation with both countries."

The ICRC has been in North Korea for more than 10 years. Maurer said the organization was eager to establish a permanent presence in South Korea as well.

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