“While we share many of the concerns upon which these sanctions are based, they have failed to resolve those concerns, despite being among the most rigorous, systemic and longest-standing sanctions regimes ever imposed,” reads the letter. “Moreover, the direct and indirect effects of the current sanctions have had very serious negative impacts on humanitarian access and action in North Korea.”
Though it is often affirmed that sanctions are not intended to harm ordinary people or to prevent humanitarian assistance, in practice the sanctions have presented major obstacles to such efforts, notes the letter.
“In addition to food shortages, reported health crises, and recent floods in North Korea represent a heavy toll of suffering for the people of the country,” reads the letter. “Several of our organizations are ready and standing by to offer needed humanitarian aid and services as soon as circumstances permit.”
Sauca also called for a new general license for humanitarian goods and services, and an approved banking channel for these purposes. “Furthermore, we consider that the current sanctions regime and travel ban are counterproductive to the pursuit of peace in the region and to the reduction of the risk of potentially catastrophic conflict,” continues the letter. “In our view, the failure to consider even incremental relaxation of sanctions was a key factor in the collapse of recent efforts at political engagement for peace.”
The rigid maintenance of ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions has only served to poison the political environment for dialogue and reduction of tensions, notes the letter. “A more flexible policy is needed to create new possibilities for constructive engagement,” the text reads. “We believe that people-to-people encounters are essential for building peace.”
Policies that prevent such encounters can only entrench conflict and division, the letter concludes. “Accordingly, we also urge you to bring to a permanent conclusion the travel ban that prevents US citizens from meeting and providing assistance to North Korean people in their country,” the text reads. “We hope that these concerns can be taken into account in the current review of US sanctions policy mandated by your Administration.”