April 3 (UPI) -- North Korea sanctions should be eased in order for the country to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, a South Korean group said Friday.
The South Korean Committee for the Joint Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration said international and U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang should be suspended immediately in response to the outbreak, Yonhap and Tongil News reported.
North Korea has claimed zero cases of COVID-19 in the country, but it has also received shipments of antiviral and medical equipment from NGOs, including Doctors Without Borders. Any organization seeking to donate supplies to the North must check with their governments and the U.N. agencies before delivery.
The current system of exempting medical supplies only after review may not be enough, the progressive South Korean committee said.
The law must "go beyond exempting from sanctions a limited scope of supplies and must suspend [all] sanctions," the group said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to provide assistance to North Korea. During a virtual summit of the G7 countries, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said sanctions do not need to be eased in order for humanitarian aid to flow into North Korea. Pyongyang slammed Pompeo in response.
"The sanctions on civilian goods has had a negative impact on people's livelihoods," the South Korean group said Friday. "The U.S. government is clinging fast to the principle of sanctions."
In a message to the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the group also said the government needs to "actively take steps to stop sanctions against North Korea and cooperate with North Korea."
Pyongyang said Friday it would not end its state of emergency until the global pandemic is over. The country shares an 880-mile border with China, where other diseases, including African swine fever, began and traveled to the North and to the South in 2019.
Seoul has been able to contain ASF but wild boar testing positive for the disease continues in areas near the border.
News 1 reported Friday an infected boar was found in Goseong, Gangwon Province for the first time. The disease spreads among pigs and no human transmissions have been reported.